Nursing students administered the first COVID-19 vaccines in Austin on Tuesday morning at UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of Dell Medical School.
UT Health Austin received 2,925 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday and immediately placed them in subzero temperature storage. It was one of only four sites across the state, and the only one in Central Texas, to gain such early access.
HAPPENING NOW: The first #COVID19 vaccines in Austin are being prepared by @UTexasPharmacy students.… https://t.co/3yvQ9VTxgf— Dell Medical School (@Dell Medical School) 1608041656.0
These initial doses, which are the first of the two-part vaccine, are earmarked for front-line health care workers, including faculty members, staff and students who are involved in treating Austin patients, in accordance to guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The facility expects to administer around 300 doses of the vaccine on Tuesday. One of them will go to Lexie Wille, who works at a local clinic providing therapy.
Wille received an email last week from her supervisor saying that she qualified for early vaccine access.
"I was just super excited," she told Austonia. "I didn't have any concerns. It was a big sense of relief, actually."
Throughout the pandemic, Wille has seen patients virtually. Once she receives the second dose of the vaccine, in about three weeks, she will return to her workplace.
"The main thing that I feel is excited at the possibility of being able to see more patients," she said, adding that many of her patients right now are either new to therapy or experiencing more severe symptoms than they were pre-pandemic.
"I did it because I want to help my community, and someone has to start," says Stephanie Vasquez, a nurse with… https://t.co/hlY02Cimm8— Dell Medical School (@Dell Medical School) 1608042405.0
Erin Morpeth, a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin who works with the psychiatry team at Dell Seton Medical Center, is also slated to receive one of UT Health's initial doses. Her appointment is scheduled for Friday.
"Right now, when I go in, I usually wear two masks at least," she said. "They have hand sanitizer at every single corner of the hospital. So (I'm) using that constantly."
Morpeth expects getting vaccinated against COVID-19 will help her feel more ease while at work.
"There's excitement. There's anxiety. There's some feeling of, 'Should I actually deserve to get this vaccine?'" she said.
Amy Young, chief clinical officer at UT Health Austin and vice dean of professional practice at Dell Medical School, said the vaccine "finally" allows for hope of a post-pandemic future.
"This has been a long haul for everyone, but especially for the health care providers who have been putting their own lives at risk in taking care of COVID-19 patients on the front lines," she said in a statement Monday.
Ten other facilities in Hays, Travis and Williamson counties will receive vaccine shipments later this week as part of the state's initial allotment, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
In addition to front-line healthcare workers and EMS first responders, nursing home residents and staff are also considered top priority vaccine recipients. Most long-term care facilities across the state will receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine starting on Dec. 28 through a federal program separate from the initial allotment happening this week.
It will likely take many months before the vaccine is widely available to the general public, and local health officials have stressed that Austinites will need to maintain protective measures—such as masking, social distancing and hand washing—until herd immunity if achieved through mass vaccination.
However, Pfizer may soon be joined by other pharmaceutical companies in distributing a vaccine.
The FDA will meet with its advisory panel on Thursday to review Moderna's application for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine, which works similarly to Pfizer's and has also posted promising results from its clinical trials.
If Moderna's vaccine is approved, as expected, as many as 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of the month, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday.
Emmy Amash has always been the friend that people would go to with questions about sex, birth control and women’s health issues. It’s what called her to work as a birth doula and go to nursing school.
But during rotations around Austin, she’s noticed a shift in the trust between patients and healthcare providers, and it’s been happening under Texas’ Senate Bill 8, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
“What I've seen working in the emergency room with women who are coming in experiencing complications after or during a miscarriage is a lot of what feels to me like mistrust and hesitancy to be sharing complete histories of what's going on,” Amash said.
Over the last 10 months, SB 8 has had a chilling effect on healthcare workers and patients that’s endangering people’s lives, says a new study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project in the New England Journal of Medicine. It also offers a glimpse at how the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade—which is expected to outlaw or restrict abortion in almost half of the states—will make the risks to patients more common.
The study shared findings based on interviews with Texas clinicians and 20 people who had medically complex pregnancies and sought care under SB 8. The law—which bans abortion before many even know that they are pregnant—is aimed at those providing abortion care. But researchers say that, to the detriment of patients, it has an effect on other health care workers.
For example, a woman who took part in the study reported receiving a fetal diagnosis of trisomy 18, a rare condition lacking a cure that causes most babies to die before they are born. But the woman’s physician didn’t inform her about termination options.
“When you already have received news like that and can barely function, the thought of then having to do your own investigating to determine where to get this medical care and to arrange going out of state feels additionally overwhelming,” the woman said.
On the health provider side, Amash understands the frustration and secrecy of patients, citing Lizelle Herrera’s case as an example of the kind of situation patients may worry about running into.
Herrera, a 26-year-old in the Rio Grande Valley, was arrested on a murder charge in April for a self-induced abortion. She was held in jail for three days on a $500,000 bond until a local district attorney dropped the case.
🚨Breaking News!!!🚨 Charges are being dismissed for Lizelle Herrera!!! #Justice4Lizellepic.twitter.com/yG15cw74Oi
— Frontera Fund (@LaFronteraFund) April 10, 2022
But there could be more instances like Herrera’s, and Amash talked about what it’s been like to continue working amid added restrictions on abortion rights. It’ll only continue given that Texas and a dozen other states have a trigger law making abortion illegal after the repeal of Roe v. Wade. In Texas; it’ll go into effect within 30 days.
“I feel like I've been holding my breath,” Amash said. She went on to describe “feeling powerless to this larger system that's making these choices that's so far removed from the actual lives of individuals.”
But local officials are taking action in light of the high court's decision. Austin City Council will hold a special meeting the week of July 18 on a resolution aimed at decriminalizing abortion. Submitted by council member Jose "Chito" Vela, it would direct the police department to make criminal enforcement, arrest and investigation of abortions its lowest priority. But for Central Texans, it may only allow for a patchwork system in which only abortions within the city escape criminalization.
“That's nice, and also, it's just not enough,” Amash said. “Not enough for how big Texas is for us to have one little area. There's a lot of people here that need care and aren't going to have access to it.”
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This month has been Austin's hottest June on record after 21 days of triple-degree heat, according to the National Weather Service.
Despite a weather forecast that predicted otherwise, Austin beat the odds and logged its 12th straight day of 100+ degree high temperatures Monday. On the same day, the city also broke its 2008 record with the most triple-digit temperatures ever recorded during the month.
Austin has now hit 100 degrees 21 times this month and 12 days in a row, a new June record.
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) June 27, 2022
The city has now broke heat records for two months in a row after recording its hottest May ever last month.
But at least some of Austin's hot and dry start to summer may be alleviated soon as a so-called cold front heads into town Monday night. Temperatures are expected to remain below the mid-90s for the rest of the week, and Tuesday could break the nearly two-week streak of 100-degree highs.
With the cold front comes much-needed rain, which is expected to scatter across Central Texas skies Monday night. Lightning and gusts of wind up to 60 mph could hit the area, especially along the I-35 corridor near San Marcos, where a Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued.
Storms will continue to develop along an east to west line through sunset. The Hill Country, I-35 Corridor, and Coastal Plains will be most affected. The main dangers are lightning and gusts winds to 60 mph. pic.twitter.com/ocKg9cYDSd
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) June 27, 2022
Scattered storms are expected to remain Tuesday with possibly bouts of gusty winds and small hail, and some storms could continue in the area east of I-35 through Thursday. Austin has seen 2.8 fewer inches of rainfall than the average this month and is only expected to see about a quarter inch of rainfall this week.
Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected to persist through about 9-10 pm this evening before weakening. Expect a similar setup on Tuesday, but chances look better for the Rio Grande Plains and Winter Garden region. Gusty winds and small hail are possibly. #txwxpic.twitter.com/X4tmSTLBQu
— NWS Austin/San Antonio (@NWSSanAntonio) June 27, 2022
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