Austin-Travis County EMS and Area First Responders Receive First Round of COVID-19 Vaccine Ahead of Schedule
Partnership with UT Austin allowing EMTs and Paramedics access to first vaccine shipment
|Austin, Texas – Earlier this week, the first round of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Austin-Travis County through direct shipments to area healthcare facilities.|
As part of the 1A vaccine distribution group as designated by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services expected shipments of vaccinations for their front line EMTs and Paramedics to arrive in late December, with the goal of rolling out the vaccine to their personnel before the year's end.
Thanks to the University of Texas at Austin, some area paramedics and EMTs will receive their vaccines even sooner than expected.
The COVID-19 vaccination operation currently underway at UT Health Austin, the clinical practice of the University of Texas at Austin, is part of a broad collaboration across UT Austin that also includes the School of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, University Health Services and the Office of Campus Safety. The UT Austin team is also collaborating with Austin Public Health, the City of Austin, Travis County, and the State of Texas.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, it's been clear that it would take a broad coalition across Central Texas working together to defeat COVID-19," said Amy Young, M.D., UT Health Austin Chief Clinical Officer and Vice Dean of Professional Practice at Dell Med. "We are continuing to work in partnership with Austin Public Health, along with Austin-Travis County EMS and the Austin Fire Department, to support our community's health care personnel and our critical health infrastructure."
Among the first in the state, EMTs and Paramedics with Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS), the Austin Fire Department and various Travis County Fire Departments, began receiving their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations Saturday, Dec. 19, with many more expected to receive them throughout the weekend and into next week.
"We're lucky to have such a close working relationship with our hospital partners. To be invited to get vaccinations earlier than expected was an opportunity we could not (and would not) pass up," said Ernesto Rodriguez, Chief of Austin-Travis County EMS. "It really is a blessing to have such a good partnership, and work together to ensure the safety of all the healthcare workers in our area. Getting the vaccines ahead of our expected timeline means that our hardworking EMTs and Paramedics will be able to safely care for Austin-Travis County residents all the sooner."
Over the course of the pandemic, ATCEMS has implemented multiple strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Among those measures is the COVID Clinical Consult Line, a supplement to the emergency call triage system, which employs communications medics with special training. This line is meant to help 911 callers that may be experiencing COVID symptoms reach the right resources for their condition.
Helping to champion these efforts, and following the first group of medics who received their vaccination today, was Dr. Mark Escott, Medical Director for Austin-Travis County EMS and Interim Public Health Authority.
"In an emergency, the men and women of ATCEMS, AFD and our other Travis County Fire Departments are for many residents, the very first healthcare providers they see. Our medics wind up being their patient's introduction into the healthcare system," Escott said. "With COVID cases on the rise, it is critically important that our clinicians get vaccinated as early as possible, to protect themselves and thereby protecting their patients from COVID-19."
Vaccinations for Austin's first responders will continue over the weekend and into next week. One by one, they will build their defense against the deadly virus that has been spreading uncontrollably across the country for the better part of a year.
"I am so thankful that we can begin to protect those who have been working tirelessly in our community to provide life-saving medical treatment," said Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk. "I look forward to getting this vaccine out to the rest of our first responders in the coming weeks and the community as a whole in the months ahead."
ATCEMS Clinical Specialist Felipe Garcia receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine through a partnership with Dell Med
COVID-19 Vaccine Week 2 Allocations
DSHS announced their week 2 vaccine allocations yesterday, Dec. 18. The allocations can be viewed weekly on the DSHS COVID-19 Vaccine page. The Austin area will receive 2,925 additional batches of the Pfizer vaccine and is expected to receive 15,400 batches of the Moderna vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine is shipped in batches of 975, and the Moderna vaccine will be shipped in batches of 100, allowing smaller providers the ability to begin distributing the vaccine.
At this time, DSHS has informed Austin Public Health (APH) that they are still only distributing vaccine to individuals who fit the descriptions of Group 1A of their allocation guiding principles. They may soon designate that the vaccine can be distributed to Group 1B. City of Austin and Travis County staff in those groups have already been notified of the expected timeline of vaccine distribution to them, and have been notified that the vaccine may be made available to them earlier than expected, as with today's announcement and partnership with the UT Austin team.
Also in Groups 1A and 1B are individuals who work or live in long-term care facilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working directly with pharmacies on a vaccine plan for these facilities.
As the vaccine distribution ramps up in the coming weeks and months, APH will continue to serve as an informational hub; and while APH clinics are registered as a vaccine provider through DSHS, they will not serve as the distributor of vaccines to providers in the community.
B-Roll and Interview Availability
B roll of the first vaccinations for ATCEMS and AFD, as well as filmed interviews with Dr. Escott, ATCEMS Clinical Specialist Felipe Garcia, and AFD Fire Specialist Elijah Tennefrancia, and still photos are available at this link.
Virtual interviews with ATCEMS will be available on a first-come, first-served basis this afternoon. Contact EMSPIO@austintexas.gov, or call the ATCEMS PIO at 512-802-0012.
For more information about COVID-19, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Austin-Travis County, visit AustinTexas.gov/COVID19-vaccines.