Good afternoon everyone. Happy to spend the next half hour with you and discuss the vaccine. 

It is a very exciting time, first of all. It is really thrilling that we are finally able to begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, by being able to receive vaccine and now start to distribute that in an orderly approach.

So, we have received our first doses here at UTRGV this morning. And we plan to start vaccinating this afternoon, our first group of people. And then, over the rest of this week, we will be doing 12-hour shifts in order to assure that we are able to get the vaccine to our frontline healthcare workers in support, here at UTRGV. 

So, our planning in how the vaccine is distributed follows CDC and FDA guidelines which state that the first round of vaccines should be to those frontline healthcare workers who have exposure to COVID—19 patients. And we will begin to prioritize our own staff, faculty, physicians, nurses, those people who work in the hospital settings, first: for those individuals to be able to more safely take care of patients who do have the COVID-19 virus, as they come across them.

In addition, as you may know, we have almost 300 residents and fellows who work in the hospitals across the Valley and who take care of patients with COVID every day. And those individuals will be getting the vaccine here in this first round as well as they are key healthcare providers in the Valley workforce.

Likewise, we have students in the university who take care of patients in the hospital with COVID and without those students being able to pitch in and help and take care of those patients it would be much more challenging, given the fact that the workforce can be very restricted in a time of a crisis such as this. So, we have medical students who take care of patients, nursing students who take care of patients; other learners who are really critical healthcare delivery personnel who will be prioritized to receive the vaccine here this week.

We are thrilled that we are able to do this. The fact that we can protect the healthcare workforce allows them to feel more confident going to work and spending the hours and days that they have spent over the last months in taking care of people in the Valley with this terrible disease. So, we really see this as the start for UT Health RGV and the school of medicine university as we roll this out. This is going to be a marathon not a sprint, as I have said many times in the pandemic. And we will likely be advancing our role in the vaccination of the public daily, weekly, monthly, until we really can get a significant portion of the community vaccinated and safe. That, likely, is going to take the better part of a year. 

So, I think it is important to remain patient. It is important to know that the vaccine will be distributed in an equitable manner based upon state and federal guidelines and it’s important in the meantime to continue to be vigilant. To practice good healthcare, to continue to wear masks any time you are in public. To continue to avoid large congregations. To continue to socially distance and to continue to practice good hygiene, hand hygiene, washing your hands. All of these things will remain critical until we get a substantial portion of the population vaccinated. But again, that is going to be well into 2021, not in the next month. 

Editor’s Note: The above commentary is based upon remarks Dr. John Krouse made at a virtual news conference about the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. Dr. Krouse is executive vice president for health affairs at UTRGV Health and dean of the UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. 

Editor’s Note: Here is a podcast of the virtual news conference held by Dr. John H. Krouse. It includes his answers to questions from reporters:

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