Vaccinator teams arriving soon to Fort Davis, Marfa, shots sent to Alpine, Presidio

Newly vaccinated patients in Pecos, Texas wait the allotted 15 minutes for healthcare workers to monitor them for any adverse effects to the Pfizer vaccine. Area residents are traveling hundreds of miles to access vaccinations against COVID-19, while other locals are waiting for more doses to arrive in the tri-county. Photo by M. Genitempo

BIG BEND — A team of vaccinators with 900 Pfizer vaccines will arrive in Fort Davis on Monday and Marfa on Tuesday, aiming to vaccinate the area’s senior citizens and individuals with certain chronic illnesses.

As the number of vaccines arriving to Texas each week slowly rises, vaccine hubs (designated providers that receive more doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the state) are distributing more doses to rural areas.

In the tri-county, the Midland Memorial Hospital hub has stepped up to get vaccines sent out, giving hundreds to Big Bend Regional Medical Center for Alpine and Preventative Care Health Services for Presidio over the past weekend, and bringing both vaccines and workers to Fort Davis and Marfa to assist with one-day vaccination events next week.

Midland Memorial CEO Russell Meyers in a press conference on Tuesday said, “What used to be 4,875 doses has now been recognized as closer to 5,800, because the Pfizer vaccine is supposed to have five doses per vial and actually has six, so we’re getting a good bit more supply than what the state is actually allocating to us, and that puts us in a position to share with others.”

The Midland Memorial strike team will bring 400 vaccines to Fort Davis, which will be distributed on a first come, first served basis on Monday, February 8 at the Fire Station on 200 Court Ave. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until they run out. Patients will enter the parking lot from Woodward Avenue, park and walk into the station to be vaccinated. Vaccinators will return to give the second dose on Monday, March 1 at the same location.

The following day, the strike team will travel down to Marfa with 500 doses. Vaccinations will take place at the AmVet/USO/Visitor’s Center building at 302 South Highland Avenue and will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. or when they run out.

Patients are asked to be on time for their appointment slot, bring a photo ID and enter through the front entrance of the building. Appointments are required, and patients must call Marfa Country Clinic at 729-3000 to make an appointment in order to be vaccinated. Registration is open to tri-county residents.

In Marfa, Don Culbertson’s Marfa Clinic has volunteered to partner with Midland Memorial to assist with appointment making and the giving vaccines. The City of Marfa is also contributing the building and EMS and law enforcement assistance. City staff and Rio Grande Council of Government workers will also help with making calls to get appointments setup. Culbertson said the Midland strike team was initially planning to bring 200 vaccines, but at his request bumped the number to 500. Vaccinators will return to give the second dose on Tuesday, March 2 at the same location.

Both Fort Davis and Marfa’s vaccine events will focus on 1B-eligible patients: those over the age of 65, or people 16 years of age and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19, such as, but not limited to cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathies, solid organ transplantation, obesity and severe obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher), pregnancy, sickle cell disease or type 2 diabetes mellitus. Healthcare workers who fall under 1A may also be vaccinated.

“We have to adhere to very, very strict 1A/1B criteria,” Culbertson said. He had initially hoped to bring in frontline workers like staff from the post office, library, schools and others, but the plan was aborted he said, when it was explained vaccinations must solely fit the rigid 1A and 1B eligibility.

In good news for the entire region, anyone from 1A or 1B in the tri-county is welcome to travel to Fort Davis or Marfa to take part. Culbertson wants to make sure Midland Memorial teams “go back with nothing” left over, wanting all vaccines in Fort Davis and Marfa used up by the end of Tuesday.

While Marfa is getting assistance from a strike team on Tuesday, Presidio’s PCHS clinic is responsible for handling distribution of vaccine batches from Midland on their own. A few local officials were able to shed light on why some cities in the area are getting strike teams at this time, while others are not.

Presidio EMS Director Malynda Richardson said Midland Memorial’s trauma coordinator is not sending teams “as long as we have someone in the area saying they can administer the vaccine and have shown they can do it.”

Though PCHS CEO Linda Molinar was not available for comment before press time, Molinar said at the weekly area-wide vaccine conference call on Tuesday that if her clinic can get more vaccines, her local PCHS staff is ready to administer them.

Richardson said PCHS has done a “phenomenal job,” pointing to this past weekend when CEO Molinar herself drove to Midland and back to bring 400 Pfizer vaccines on dry ice. The clinic distributed the entire batch over two days, though they did have to shutter its regular clinic operations for one day.

Still, Judge Cinderela Guevara has asked the regional advisory council to send a strike team to Presidio. PCHS is using a list it has compiled itself to set up vaccine appointments, and EMS Director Richardson worries that they may be better at reaching their own primary care patients, and their own patients may be better at reaching out to them to get on the list. She worries that those who rely on telemedicine or those who seek care in Ojinaga do not realize they should or even could get on the local PCHS list.

Presidio has a large population over 65, and a large population of under 65 that have comorbidities. “When we transport a patient, even for those 40 to 60, I would bet a good solid 30% of them have diabetes,” Richardson said. “That’s a huge risk factor with COVID, but they may not use the PCHS clinic.” To sign up with PCHS, call 432-837-4812.

“I worry most about people who live in the one room apartments, who don’t have kids in Presidio anymore, don’t speak English, are not comfortable picking up the phones to make calls to deal with the healthcare system – those are the ones totally at risk of falling through the cracks,” Richardson said.

“My honest dream is that we have the National Guard be activated like they are for five counties in the northern part of West Texas, and have them come out here and do vaccines just like they did testing,” Richardson said. “But you’ve got to have enough vaccines to do that and you’ve got to have the National Guard activated.”

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How to get in line for a COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccines are available through a variety of places now, for those frontline healthcare workers, those over 65 and those over 16 with certain chronic illnesses. Below are resources to sign up for a vaccine appointment, or to get on a waitlist to be called when appointments are available.

  • Vaccines at the Monday event in Fort Davis are first come, first served at the Fort Davis Fire Station, 200 Court Ave. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until they run out.
  • To sign up for the Tuesday event in Marfa, call the Marfa Clinic at 432-729-3000.
  • To get on a waitlist at Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, call 432-837-0430.
  • To sign up with Preventative Care Health Services (with clinics in Alpine, Marfa and Presidio), call 432-837-4812.
  • To get on the Department of State Health Services’ wait list, fill out the form at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LXX7S6V.

To sign up for a vaccine appointment in the city of Pecos, visit https://www.reevescountyhospital.com/ and click “sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine” at the top of the page.


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