EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) — Five nurses at University Medical Center of El Paso working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic were the first ones in El Paso to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.
The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived at UMC Tuesday morning.
"This is the light at the end of the tunnel we have all waited for," Ryan Mielke, a spokesperson with UMC, said.
29-year-old Crystal Molina was the first nurse and the first El Pasoan to receive the vaccine.
I was excited, I was nervous, a little bit of both, more excited,” she said. “It wasn't necessarily scary. He was really light-handed so it wasn't that bad, but I felt excitement.
Molina, an El Paso native, works in the emergency department.
“It's been hard on all of us, physically, emotionally, mentally and every effort you put in, it's been hard. But our team has kept up, we've been troopers so we're just going to keep tagging on until, hopefully, if the numbers decrease," she said.
Ricardo Martinez was also among the first to receive the vaccine.
I’m honored and privilege to be one of the first ones to get the vaccine,” he said. “It feels like a little relief that we're finally gonna get some help, we're gonna get some vaccines. Hopefully, it'll help because it's been a lot of work for everybody. Not only that but the community, suffering so many deaths, so many people are sick you see it every day. It's horrible.
He said he’s been working overtime to help UMC manage the influx of patients.
“They've asked us to pick up extra shifts and I even volunteer for my day off just to help them out,” Martinez said. “It became very overwhelming with so many patients needing the help so I was eager to come in and help them.”
Also vaccinated Tuesday afternoon was Raul Garcia.
“It felt good It was almost like a sigh of relief,” he said.”It's, you know, step one of two, so I mean, definitely moving forward.”
Garcia said most of his family didn’t know he would be receiving the vaccine. He hopes the vaccines are one step closer to getting to be close to his family again.
“I try to stay away from them, just, you know, because I care about them, I want them to be safe so I don't go around them,” he said. “Just because I'm exposed every day.”
University Medical Center is the first hospital in the region to get the vaccine, receiving 2,925 doses.
Mielke said three tents are being put up outside of UMC East where hospital staff will be getting vaccinated.
The first few vaccines are planned to be distributed Tuesday with the full distribution effort kicking off in the following days, according to Mielke.
Other hospitals are on track to receive the vaccine later this week.
Public Health Director Angela Mora said it will be distributed in phases.
Phase one runs through February of next year, with the vaccine going directly to healthcare workers.
Phase two will run from February through July. This will include high-risk people who are not yet vaccinated in phase one, like El Pasoans with serious health issues.
By July, Mora said most of the public should be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
There are currently 161 local providers enrolled to give the vaccine.
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