The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Brewster County, and is being distributed according to a phase-in system created by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
As of press time, only Preventative Care Health Services in Alpine was offering the vaccine, and only to those in the first and second tiers of Phase 1A as described by State Health Services. PCHS received around 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine, and started distributing it on Dec. 29.
Lael Kucera of PCHS asked that the public not call the clinic to ask about receiving the shot.
In a statement, she said, “The CDC has issued specific guidelines about who can get this first round. We commit to distribute this vaccine as quickly as possible. We will keep the public updated regularly as we receive new information.”
Phase 1A, First Tier, includes healthcare workers in hospitals working directly with patients, along with support staff, laboratory, pharmacy, diagnostic, and rehabilitation services; long-term care providers and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities; EMS providers who engage in 911 emergency services; home health care workers, including hospice care; and residents of long-term care facilities.
The Second Tier includes physicians, nurses, and support staff in outpatient care settings; non-911 transport staff; community pharmacy staff; public health and emergency responders directly involved in COVID testing and vaccinations; those who provide mortuary or death services, including funeral home workers and medical examiners; and school nurses who provide health care to students and teachers.
Many in the Tri-County received the vaccine in the past two weeks, including staff at Big Bend Regional Medical Center; several doctor’s offices in Alpine, Fort Davis, and Marfa; Alpine, Presidio, and Jeff Davis County EMS; Alpine ISD; community drug stores; some at Sul Ross State University; and others.
Two shots are required for protection, with the second coming 28 days after the first.
Angela Juett of Agave Home Health in Alpine said the vaccine was not required at this time, but requirements could be on a facility basis.
“In other words, if a hospital required it to work there, you would have to get it,” she said. “As far as the general public, you’d have to get a doctor’s order to say you have a condition that moves you up in line – congestive heart failure, COPD, and so on. If that doctor approves it, he would write an order to receive the vaccine.”
Juett said some were more sensitive to vaccines than others, and might have more side effects.
“Every new vaccine is going to potentially create some, like the flu vaccine. You can’t get it if you’re allergic to eggs or penicillin. They will have to figure those things out,” she said.
Common side effects of the COVID vaccine listed by the Center for Disease Control might include injection site pain and swelling, fever, chills, tiredness, and headache and body aches.
Gayla Owens, a school nurse at Alpine ISD, received the shot last week, and said she had “significant” side effects that lasted just one day, mostly body aches.
“I’ve been told that those who have had COVID-19 have a harder time with the shot than those who have not had it,” she said. “They say the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting COVID, it just prevents you from getting it as bad. The symptoms are supposed to be less severe.”