The University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC) has faced two debacles this week regarding the Covid-19 vaccinations in El Paso. The problems raises questions about UMC’s commitment to the El Paso community in light of the pandemic. On December 15, with much fanfare, UMC held a press conference where they publicly administered the first Covid-19 vaccines in El Paso. Not all went according to plan. The second was yesterday when the numerical count of vaccines does not match up with promises made by UMC.
In the first instance, on Tuesday, December 15, a KFOX video tape of the UMC vaccine event trended on social media when someone blew up the video showing that one nurse received what appears to be an empty syringe of the vaccine.
As readers may note in the video capture, the plunger on the vaccine is already depressed before the vaccine shot is administered. On Wednesday, UMC issued a statement stating that they “wanted to remove any doubt raised” that the nurse did not receive a full dose in the viral video. UMC, according to their statement, stated that the nurse “was vaccinated again,” implying that the original vaccine was incomplete.
The problem with that statement is that the viral video suggests the original vaccine shot was empty. The reason for it being empty are unknown.
But the problem with UMC’s response is that they offer no explanation as to the medical mishap.
This leaves a sense that UMC is not being forthright with the community.
The second problem with UMC’s Covid-19 vaccination program arose yesterday when a social media post showed a non-medical professional at UMC receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
Taylor Moreno shared an Instagram post on her Instagram account showing herself receiving what appears to be the Covid-19 vaccine. Moreno’s Instagram account is private, however, a reader provided El Paso Politics a screen capture of her Instagram share.
Moreno’s vaccination raises questions.
CDC Vaccination Guidelines
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a recommendation for who should get the Covid-19 vaccine first because of their limited supply on December 1. According to the CDC, “vaccination in the initial phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program (Phase 1a) should be offered to both 1) healthcare personnel and 2) residents of long-term care facilities.” [CDC website accessed on December 19, 2020]
The CDC defines a healthcare professional “as paid and unpaid people serving in health care setting who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.” [CDC website accessed on December 19, 2020]
According to the Dallas Morning News, the first allotment of Covid-19 vaccines for Texas were “sent to 109 hospitals across the state.” The first round of vaccines was intended for “front line health care staffers working directly with patients who are positive or at risk for COVID-19.” [December 4, 2020]
That was the plan Texas submitted to the CDC.
According to a KFOX news report from December 14, 2020, El Paso was only to receive 6,000 Covid-19 vaccines in the first batch. The reason for the low initial supply was that El Paso is “considered healthcare professional shortage area.” KFOX was quoting El Paso Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza.
KVIA reported on December 4 that El Paso would receive an initial allotment of about 7,000 vaccines. According to KVIA, the first allotment that was expected on December 14 would be allocated to three local hospitals. UMC was to receive 2,900 doses, the Hospitals of Providence East Campus and Memorial Campus were to each receive 975 doses. Del Sol and Las Palmas were also each to receive 975 doses, as well.
In total, 6,800 doses were expected by December 14.
On December 14, 2020, Ryan Mielke of UMC issued a press release advising that UMC was expecting 2,900 doses to arrive that day. UMC’s press release stated that UMC had asked “El Paso Children’s Hospital, Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, the Medical Examiner’s Office, affiliated community physicians, and emergency medical technicians, to provide names of front line healthcare staff to be vaccinated at UMC.”
This suggests that the initial 2,900 doses would be administered to the “front line healthcare staff” of the various El Paso medical facilities.
The Numbers Do Not Add Up
Unfortunately, the numbers do not add up.
It is difficult to ascertain how many physicians, nurses and other front-line medical professionals there are in El Paso in the facilities that UMC was going to share their initial doses with.
Each year, the El Paso Inc., publishes a list of the largest employers in El Paso.
According to the El Paso Inc. list, in 2020 there are about 2,800 working at UMC. The El Paso Inc. states that the number is derived from information provided to them by the City of El Paso Office of Management and Budget.
The El Paso Inc. list shows another 1,645 employees at Texas Tech.
Between UMC and Texas Tech there are about 4,445 employees.
How many of are those are front line medical professionals is hard to ascertain. However, the partial list does not include physicians and other front line medial professionals at El Paso Children’s Hospital, the Medical Examiners Office or the other medical staff that UMC asked for a list of “front line healthcare staff to be vaccinated at UMC.”
Even at the about 5,000 employee count, the initial doses allocated to UMC, at best covers about 60% of the employees. That number does not include other medical professionals at risk in the community.
The Taylor Moreno Issue
Taylor Moreno is listed as the Program Director for El Paso Children’s Hospital according to EPCH’ website. [accessed on December 19, 2020]
Because of Covid-19, many organizations have implemented remote working for employees capable of working remotely. It is unknown if El Paso Children’s Hospital has facilitated remote working capabilities for its employees. However, Moreno’s job functions likely do not require her to be near patients. Any proximity to patients would likely violate several medical professional standards including privacy requirements under HIPAA.
KVIA reported yesterday that Moreno “is not a health care worker.”
In response to KVIA’s query about Moreno’s Covid-19 vaccination, UMC said that they were “able to vaccinate all of its workforce” by Friday afternoon.
UMC told KVIA that it received “an addition supply of the vaccine.” UMC added that El Paso Children’s Hospital and Texas Tech received their own supply.
How many new vaccine supplies in addition to the initial allotment of 2,900 doses have been supplied to El Paso is not readily available.
It should be noted that the CDC recommends that front line healthcare professionals and long-term care facility residents receive the initial doses before others are administered them.
The Texas Health and Human Services told NBC in the Dallas Fort Worth Area yesterday that 224,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered this week across Texas. The Moderna vaccine did not reach Texas by Friday.
According to the Texas Health and Human Services’ website, the only facility in El Paso to receive the vaccine is UMC. Other than the 2,900 documented by UMC earlier in the week we do not know how many doses have arrived in El Paso as of Friday.
UMC has documented 2,900 doses and alluded to receiving more. Yet, UMC has about 4,500 employees, not including front line workers at Texas Tech and El Paso Children’s Hospital. Taylor Moreno is not a front line worker. UMC issued a statement stating that all of its employees are now vaccinated.
Even taking into account the additional 2,355 doses from the assumed initial allocation to El Paso, which is unlikely, it is unlikely that all UMC, Texas Tech and El Paso Children’s Hospital employees have been vaccinated.
The numbers do not add up.