These days, Chrissy Brown of Frisco is careful about seeing her grandparents who are in their early 90s and staying at an assisted living facility in McKinney. Before visiting her parents at Thanksgiving, she and her 2-year-old daughter took the COVID-19 test. Just to be safe.

Brown, a technology consultant who works from home, wears a mask everywhere she goes. She wants to do everything she can to stop the pandemic. She even received the vaccine as a trial participant in September, hoping to help in the fight against the deadly virus.

So this week, the 33-year-old is watching with special interest as the vaccine has started to arrive for distribution at hospitals and senior living centers in North Texas.  

The two Collin County sites listed on a schedule to receive the vaccine for Week 1 beginning Dec. 12 are Medical City McKinney for 975 doses and Medical City Plano for 2,925 doses, according to an allocation plan posted on the Texas Health and Human Services website. 

Texas Health Resources, which has facilities in Allen, Frisco and Plano, announced in a release Tuesday that 5,850 doses of the Pfizer vaccine had arrived for the system’s 16 hospitals. Front-line caregivers and other health care workers in emergency departments and COVID-19 units will receive the vaccine.

Also, HarborChase senior living communities, which has a facility in McKinney and another one in Plano, announced it will soon begin giving the vaccine to its residents and associates.

“I am very excited that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Brown said. “The vaccine is something we definitely need. We aren’t going to get out of this pandemic without its help. I am thankful for the many hours the scientists have given to the research needed.”

Hospitals and health providers are allocating the vaccine directly, bypassing local government involvement.

The Medical City Healthcare system has not yet announced details.

“Medical City Healthcare clinical and emergency operations teams have developed a plan that includes storage and a vaccination administration process and we are working closely with the state on distribution timing,” the system stated on its website in its latest update posted Dec. 11.

Brown thought about her parents and grandparents this week as she watched media coverage of the first doses of the vaccine arrive in Dallas and Fort Worth.

Texas Health Resources

Vaccine arrives

On Tuesday, workers unloaded stacks of thousands of white vaccine containers from trucks, rolled them into elevators and stored them in subzero deep freezers at facilities for Texas Health Resources in Tarrant County. They will thaw the vaccine in the vials first and then dilute it before vaccinations can take place across Texas Health Resources facilities.

The boxes seem remarkably small, about the size of boxes of candy. But they pack a powerful punch and offer hope as they hold thousands of doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

Brown recalled the first time she took the shot during a trial vaccine in September. She said she sought out the trial due to her friends in the health care field, battling the virus on the front lines. 

The only reaction she had after the first dose was a sore arm. 

Several weeks later in October she got her second dose. By that evening she began experiencing chills, body aches and a fever that spiked briefly to 102.7 degrees. The next day, the fever dissipated but she felt tired.

“It was like the flu but it only lasted maybe 14 hours,” she said. “But if it’s going to protect me from the COVID virus it’s worth it.”

In November, she received an antibody test. She is taking another one in May, six months after her first shot.

Even after receiving the shot, Brown said she continues to wear a mask and follows distancing rules. Healthcare workers who receive the vaccine will continue following personal protective equipment standards. The vaccine does not replace the need for safety precautions, wearing a mask, maintaining distance, and limiting gatherings with individuals.

“I still don’t know if I am a carrier or how well it’s working so I want to be careful,” Brown said.  “That’s what we all have to do even after receiving the vaccine as we get through this. It’s disappointing to read so many negative messages and conspiracies about the virus when so many health care workers and scientists are working so hard to fight it. We need to support them during this trying time.”

Vaccine distribution

Four sites across Texas, including Methodist Dallas Medical Center, received 19,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Monday morning. An additional 19 sites received 75,075 doses on Tuesday, according to the Texas Health and Human Services website.

In all, Texas allocated 224,250 doses of vaccine to 110 providers in Week 1 of distribution, according to the state health department.  The focus is on facilities that indicated they will vaccinate at least 975 front-line health care workers. It is the minimum order for the Pfizer vaccine. More vaccine will be available for more providers next week. The general public, especially older Americans, should start to be vaccinated early next year.

Harbor Retirement Associates announced that all residents and associates will be eligible to receive the optional vaccine. HRA also operates HarborChase as well as 36 Assisted and Independent Living, Skilled Nursing, Memory Care, and Transitional Memory Care communities across 12 states

They will administer the vaccine in two doses, 28 days apart.

At Texas Health Resources, vaccination clinics are scheduled at 16 of the system’s hospitals this week, once training is complete. The goal is to administer all the vaccines in the current shipment by the end of the day Friday.

Employees are not required to take the vaccination.

Who’s receiving it?

As more vaccine becomes available, it will be offered to a wider group of healthcare workers in different settings within Texas Health, with the intent of offering the vaccine to all Texas Health employees over time as the vaccine becomes available. 

“Our team members are exhausted from nine months of providing intensive care to seriously ill patients with COVID-19, but despite that weariness they continue to care for patients and their families each day,” said Barclay Berdan, FACHE, Texas Health chief executive officer. “The vaccine will help protect these heroes as they continue to serve the people in our communities.”

The system’s initial state allocation will be used for the vaccination of front-line caregivers and other healthcare workers in ERs and COVID-19 units. More shipments are expected from Pfizer and Moderna. FDA is still reviewing for Emergency Use Authorization, in the coming weeks and months.

“The sooner you give the COVID-19 vaccine, the sooner you’re going to get more,” said Randy Ball, M.B.A., R.Ph., vice president of pharmacy and system pharmacy officer. “This is exciting to be able to provide this level of protection to our front-line healthcare workers today.”

Workers unload shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday at Medical City McKinney. Frontline caregivers and staff at Medical City Healthcare began receiving the vaccine Thursday, a day after a single-day record of fatalities from the coronavirus were reported in Collin County by state. In all, Medical City Healthcare facilities in North Texas received 6,825 vaccines, with thousands more expected in coming days. 

Annette Nevins

Annette Bernhard Nevins is a Plano-based award-winning journalist who specializes in breaking news and features. She has held staff positions at several Texas newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News,...