COVID-19 vaccine rollouts continued as more hospitals across Texas and throughout the U.S. received their allotments.
Next up after hospitals receive the vaccine, the next population will probably be elderly residents.
The first COVID-19 vaccinations are underway at U.S. nursing homes, where the virus has killed more than 110,000 people, even as the nation struggles to contain a surge in the disease.
With the rollout of shots picking up speed Wednesday, lawmakers in Washington closed in on a long-stalled $900 billion coronavirus relief package that would send direct payments of around $600 to most Americans. Meanwhile, the U.S. appeared to be days away from adding a second vaccine to its arsenal.
At the same time, a major snowstorm pushing its way into the Northeast raised concern it could disrupt distribution of the first vaccine.
Nursing home residents in Florida began receiving shots Wednesday, after nearly 2,000 such vaccinations were administered in West Virginia on Tuesday. Thousands more are scheduled there in the coming days. Other states are expected to follow soon.
The elderly and infirm in long-term care have been among the most vulnerable to the virus and, together with health workers, are first in line to get the limited, initial supplies of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Nursing home residents and workers account for more than one-third of the nation’s 300,000 or so confirmed deaths from COVID-19.
In Florida, the longtime retirement haven whose 141,000 nursing home residents are the second most of any state behind California, eagerness to get the vaccine was mixed with some anxiety.
“I hope it will help me from getting COVID,” said 88-year-old retired schoolteacher Vera Leip, a resident of John Knox Village near Fort Lauderdale. “I don’t know anything about it, but I would prefer not to have it.”
In Fort Worth, officials at the James L. West Center, a specialized memory care center for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s, said they are hopeful about the vaccine.
“My recommendation is for residents living within long term care facilities to accept this vaccination,” said Dr. Janice Knebl, Chief Medical Officer of James L. West Center. “We can only protect the older adults so much with the vaccine but if they keep getting exposed to people who are transmitting the virus, it won’t help us to the degree that it needs to.”
Dr. Cheryl Harding, CEO of James L. West Center, was hopeful the vaccine would help alleviate the impact of the disease.
“People all over the United States have suffered so much, so we are communicating all this out to our staff and families,” she said. “We want everyone to be well informed and to make this very important decision because families will have to consent. We want everyone to make their own decision about this. Individually and as an organization, it’s very important that we get past this. It’s a horrible time and I am very hopeful and prayerful that this vaccine will do what we think it will.”
The first vaccine beginning widespread use in the U.S. and many Western countries, made by Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech, and a second option expected soon from competitor Moderna Inc. both are made the same way. The Food and Drug Administration says huge studies of each have uncovered no major safety risks.
On Wednesday, Dec. 16 Tarrant County Public Health reported 13 COVID-19 deaths. The deceased included a woman from Fort Worth in her 90s, a woman from Benbrook in her 90s, a man from Bedford in his 70s, two men from Fort Worth in their 70s, a man from Euless in his 70s, a man from Sansom Park in his 70s, two men from Arlington in their 70s, a woman from Hurst in her 70s, two women from Fort Worth in their 60s and a man from Grand Prairie in his 50s. All had underlying health conditions.
Tarrant County now has 1,039 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and 90,399 people have recovered.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Texas rose again Wednesday with numbers that signaled a dark holiday season on the way despite early vaccinations providing some comfort that an end of the pandemic is in sight.
Texas reported 9,528 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 252 more fatalities from the disease caused by the virus Wednesday. Intensive care units in some regions were at or near full capacity, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The department also reported 14,805 newly confirmed cases of the virus and 3,202 more probable cases.
The actual number of cases is believed to be far higher because many people haven’t been tested and some who get the disease don’t show symptoms.
Over the last week, more than one in five coronavirus tests in Texas have come back positive, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.