The day dawned rainy and cold for the City of Brownsville’s second COVID-19 drive-through vaccine clinic for individuals 65 and older outside the ITEC Center.

Clinic staff were able to administer 1,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine provided by the Cameron County Health Department to the pre-registered recipients in just a matter of hours.

Part of that efficiency is due to the city’s partnership with Texas Southmost College and Brownsville Independent School District. Around 100 volunteers from TSC donated their time to help as runners, enter data, direct traffic and administer the vaccine.

The college also offered ITEC Center for the clinic venue due to its indoor area for staff and large parking lot which could accommodate the clinic and vaccine recipients.

“One hundred people giving up their Saturday morning to be here and serve their community, as a community college that’s what we are about,” said Lynda Lopez, Executive Director of Advancement and Communication at TSC.

Additionally, nurses from Brownsville Independent School District campuses manned several of the clinic’s 15 stations to help get more residents vaccinated.

At one of the stations TSC student and LVN Crystal Palacios and BISD LVN Mirta Walle worked together to quickly get the line of waiting applicants vaccinated in spite of the occasional need to stand by their station’s small heater to warm up.

“I did pediatrics for six years so I’m used to giving vaccines. It’s been a long time, but once you learn you don’t forget,” said Walle.

For 28-year-old Palacios, currently in her second semester of her LVN to RN program, she never imagined she’d someday be on the frontlines of a pandemic.

“I just thought I’d maybe still be at a hospital or doing home health, the regular stuff. Not actually out here giving the vaccine,” Palacios said.

“I’m really glad to help. As long as we get this situation under control, that’s all that matters,” she said.

The clinic is the second led by the city following their designation on Feb. 1 by the Department of State Health Services as an approved provider, or hub, of the COVID-19 vaccine. The designation came following a joint application from the city’s Public Health Department and the Brownsville Fire Department to the state to show they could meet their requirements.

“We basically have been able to show the state that we have the skills and expertise — which is the paramedics and the EMTs — to administer the injections, and that we have the equipment necessary [which is] the refrigerators and the backup system to be able to support the refrigeration of the vaccine, which in this case is Moderna,” said Dr. Arturo Rodriguez, Director of Public Health.

For Rodriguez the designation marked an essential turn in the fight to help get the limited allocations of the vaccine out into the community.

“We are now a resource down here to be able to receive the vaccine and administer it and turn it around quicker. It also adds more providers in our area so as the state begins to get more allocations in Brownsville and South Texas the state has more options to where they can send the vaccine out. We don’t want the limiting factor to be that there weren’t enough hub providers,” he said.

In addition his department has been working closely with the Brownsville Fire Department to lay out the logistics for the clinic, staff stations and have aid on hand in case of a medical emergency.

Going forward the city hopes to implement the fire department’s Mobile Integrated Health Unit community paramedicine program to help bridge the vaccination gap for residents unable to access the vaccine clinics.

“We do have a program in place to where we are going to have our community paramedics and some nursing staff and volunteers hitting some of the high risk areas for people that just don’t have access or lack the mobility to get out to these vaccination sites. We are planning on that for the near future once we can get some more dosages.” said Fire Chief Jarrett Sheldon.

In the meantime, the 1,000 people vaccinated Saturday are projected to receive their second dose of Moderna around March 13.

For more information visit www.btxcares.com


dcathey@brownsvilleherald.com