Odessa’s Tech campus plans more vaccinesBenton: Community cannot stop prevention measures yet

Medical students returning to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center’s Odessa campus next week will need to do more than purchase new textbooks, they will also get in line for the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations.
About 40-50 of the school’s returning medical students are expected to receive the first of two vaccines, Dr. Timothy Benton, who is regional chairman of the school’s Family and Community Medicine Department, said.
“We’ve administered 50 doses since Monday when we received our (vaccine) supply,” Benton said Wednesday afternoon. “Following CDC regulations the first people we vaccinated were frontline providers, which included our physicians, nurses and clinic support staff.
“We’re almost through with most of our front-line providers. Some employees are on vacation and will be offered the vaccine when they return.”
The school received an initial shipment of 200 vaccine doses of Moderna on Monday, Benton said. Several of the school’s front-line medical providers received their first vaccine shots last week thanks to Odessa’s Medical Center and Midland Memorial hospitals, which offered to share their vaccine supplies, Benton added.
“Among those we’ve vaccinated, no one has experienced any serious side effects,” Benton said. “One person experienced mild COVID symptoms, but that’s to be expected.
“That’s actually a good sign because it shows the body’s immune system is responding to it. It’s priming the pump, if you will.”
Once school medical staff finish vaccinating first-responder healthcare staff and medical students they will begin offering the vaccine to laboratory, nurse and other support staff. Any remaining doses would then be offered at nursing homes and to other high-risk residents.
“With 200 doses, I’m not sure how far it will last,” Benton said. “We’re hoping to receive additional shipments from the state so that we can help vaccinate the community, but at this time we don’t have any confirmation that we will receive more.
MCHS and Odessa Regional Medical Center received vaccine shipments Dec. 21 and combined with Midland Memorial Hospital have since vaccinated more than 2,000 people in both communities, hospital officials have reported.
“Several thousand doses have been distributed in the past week,” Benton said. “That’s a great start achieving community immunity. That’s the way to get control of this virus.
“But we’re still months away from vaccinating 60-70 percent of the community, which is what’s really needed to reach immunity.”
Benton said the current vaccination treatment requires two shots over a two-month period.
“You have to receive the second dose before you get immunity,” Benton said. “So that doesn’t mean we should start moving away from wearing masks, following social distance guidelines and frequently washing our hands. Everyone needs to keep doing this.”
Benton said the University’s Odessa campus has experienced very few coronavirus cases among students and employees since the outbreak began.
“We were proactive very early on,” Benton said. “We very quickly set up our support staff to work remotely. But even after everyone returned to campus, we’ve followed safety protocols and have not had any problems.”