Vaccine called a ‘Christmas miracle’Frontline workers in Odessa get first doses

Medical Center Health System CEO Russell Tippin says the hospital is in “full vaccine mode,” after the facility received the first 2,500 COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered to Ector County on Monday morning.

Hospital staff immediately began receiving vaccinations, Tippin said Monday via a Facebook live announcement. Odessa Regional Medical Center is also scheduled to receive their first vaccine shipment on Monday, but have not yet indicated if their order has arrived.

‘This is a big day for Odessa, Permian Basin, West Texas and MCH as we turn this corner and in this battle with COVID,” Tippin said. “We received 2,500 doses this morning. We’re in full vaccine mode.”

MCHS Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons said the first doses will be given to hospital staff that work directly with COVID-19 patients, with other employees following.

“It will be fast and furious over the next two days,” said Timmons, noting that the vaccination process will be slower due to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day work schedules.

An ecstatic Tippin on Monday called the shipment arrival “a Christmas miracle.”

Tippin and ORMC officials have nervously been waiting to see if their first vaccination shipments arrived as scheduled on Monday. Most other Texas communities received their first vaccines on December 14, but due to a state computer glitch Ector County had to wait an extra week. 

Local concerns mounted after reports surfaced that several communities last week had not received their December 14 shipments on time or had received much fewer doses than ordered. Midland’s first vaccine doses did not arrive until December 17.

Hundreds of healthcare workers in Ector County will receive their vaccinations through Odessa’s Center for Hypertension & Internal Medicine, the practice of Dr. Madhu Pamganamamula.

Teja Pamganamamula, who serves as administrator and COVID-19 coordinator for his father’s practice, said their focus will be on healthcare workers who don’t necessarily work at hospitals full time, but still might work with COVID-19 patients, such as outpatient clinics, or people who work with Hospice patients.

“Some healthcare employees fall in between the lines,” Pamganamamula said. “They will be our priority.”

The Center for Hypertension & Internal Medicine is expecting a vaccine shipment of 500 doses later this week.

“That’s when the work will begin,” Pamganamamula said. “We hope to get vaccinations out as quick as possible. It’s now a rush to save lives.”

Tippin said MCHS expects to vaccinate at least 1,000 employees total, with shots being staggered over several days as a precaution in case anyone suffers any adverse effects. The hospital also plans to begin providing vaccine doses to other local hospitals so that those facilities can begin vaccinating their staff.

After healthcare workers, the plan is to begin vaccinating nursing home residents, Tippin said. Vaccinations to the general public will likely not begin until February or March.

State Representative Brooks Landgraf on Monday praised Tippin and his staff for sharing their vaccinations with area hospitals, including those in neighboring counties that have not yet received their vaccine shipments.

“I want to give credit where credit is due,” Landgraf noted in a press statement. “Medical Center Health System is going out of its way to be a good neighbor and make sure that the vaccine needs of the Permian Basin are being met in a timely manner.

“Hospitals in communities such as Kermit and Monahans are not expected to receive their vaccine allotments for several more days, and rather than making them wait, MCHS stepped up to share its resources while also ensuring that Odessa’s frontline medical workers get vaccinated.”