McALLEN — Officials here asked residents to be patient as they rolled out the city’s first COVID-19 vaccine clinic Friday, while the county health director noted another 17,000 doses could be on their way for distribution next week.

The city partnered with Hidalgo County and the McAllen Independent School District to distribute 800 Moderna vaccines at the McAllen Convention Center on Friday.

“We haven’t had anything like this,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said at a news conference Friday. “I remember as a kid we had the polio vaccine that was similar to this, but you know, vaccinating 900,000 people in the county is not an easy process, and so the best thing I can say to people is, let’s be patient, you know, we’re going to get to everybody.”

Hidalgo County Commissioner Ellie Torres said the county was distributing their allotted portions as quickly as possible.

“I want to remind everyone that we are at the mercy of the state for the vaccines,” Torres said. “The production is what is limiting how many we can get out there. But please know that as they come to the county, we are turning it around with partnerships that exist with our school districts and our cities to get them to our constituents ASAP.”

McAllen Superintendent Dr. J. A. Gonzalez said the school district provided 52 staff members to help with Friday’s vaccination effort, including 18 registered nurses, three registered vocational nurses and a number of principals, executive directors and others working side by side to distribute the vaccine.

“I’ve been with the district for 23 years and this is one of the proudest moments because to come together as a team is one thing, but to come together in the middle of a world pandemic to provide our community with vaccinations, proves not only that we have a solid relationship, but also proves that we have a capacity to take care of business in a very good way,” Gonzalez said at the news conference.

Hidalgo County Health And Human Services Chief Administrator Eddie Olivarez said more COVID-19 vaccine could be available for distribution next week. (Courtesy photo)

In return for their help, school districts and municipalities have been granted a certain amount of vaccines for their staff, Hidalgo County Health And Human Services Chief Administrator Eddie Olivarez said.

“We’re giving a limited amount of vaccine to those entities that were in turn helping us vaccinate others,” he said, noting that those on the lists provided to the county by either school districts or cities are either part of the vaccination effort or will be part of the effort in the future.

Torres also addressed concerns about the idea of people cheating the system.

“It’s easy to look at someone and see a young person getting a vaccine and jump to the conclusion that there might be some sort of a cheat there, but quite honestly, people don’t walk around with their health record above their heads,” she said. “So let’s be respectful and mindful that there are conditions that are not vivid to the eye.”

The county has already identified six or seven PODs, or permanent distribution sites, throughout the county that will be ready to deliver more vaccines as soon as the production surges, Olivarez said.

Contrary to popular belief, vaccines are not sitting on shelves somewhere, he said.

“There’s this notion the vaccine is being stored in refrigerators and put there — let me tell you, by this afternoon, by 1:30-2 o’clock this afternoon, we won’t have a drop left,” he said about the more than 1,000 doses the county was distributing that day. “It’s gone, and we’re already anticipating our allocation for next week to get delivered today, and by this time next week, it’s gone.”

He said the state plans to send about 17,000 doses to various vaccine providers throughout the county for distribution next week.

“Remember, we are not the only ones getting (the) vaccine,” he said. “It’s being distributed to various entities, the county, the hospitals, pharmacies, doctors. So we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

Olivarez urged those who have already received their first dose to make sure they receive their second dose at the location where they were first inoculated.

“It’s also important that you get the same brand,” he said.