Houston ICU doctor fights to get COVID-19 vaccines for staff

A doctor at the ICU in Houston this year became an indelible picture of condolences after being photographed hugging the COVID-19 patient. Now that same doctor has a new message about the vaccines currently arriving in Texas.

Dr. Joseph Varon of the United Memorial Medical Center is calling for vaccines to be distributed to small hospitals in addition to the larger Texas centers that will be first in line for vaccinations. While larger hospitals in Houston received their first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine this week, UMMC is still waiting for vials.

“We’re killing ourselves here, and we’re not getting the vaccine,” said Dr. Varon against Chron. We should have been at the top of the list. This hospital does by far the most in COVID-19 care – everything from testing to hospital care, examination and follow-up of those patients. “

MOMENT OF COMPASSION: Houston ICU doctor hugs COVID-19 patient in heartbreaking photo

Varon said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has promised the vaccine will be rolled out to UMMC next week, but the delay in getting the vaccine to his healthcare providers has proved frustrating for many of his nurses and employees.

“Can you imagine the stress I was under with all my employees? They ask, ‘Why aren’t we getting the vaccine?'” Varon said. “They were very upset because many of the patients have come to us from other hospitals.”

Varon underlined that his staff are at the forefront of the fight, having tested more than 300,000 people at UMMC’s testing sites in Houston. The staff have also treated patients from the worst affected Texas counties.

‘We get the sickest of the sick. We’re also getting the patients from El Paso, ”Varon said. “Then I have a nurse who had COVID-19 a few months ago, and now she has it again.”

After discovering that UMMC was not on the initial rollout of the vaccine distribution, he sent a 62-page document describing the work of his hospitals with links from recent interviews, and sent it to local and national leaders.

“If this happens to health care providers, what will happen to the general public?” Varon said. “How do we know we can’t give the vaccine to poor people who really need it? That’s my concern. How are we going to make this vaccine accessible to them if we don’t have it?”

Varon worked non-stop for 272 days with COVID-19 patients in the ICU ward of UMMC. When the vaccine arrives, he urges all healthcare providers to take the injection. Although, he says, some health professionals are actually reluctant to use it.

“Some don’t want to get them because they will say ‘It’s a vaccine developed through the Trump administration,'” Varon said. “I tell them, ‘Trust me with your own relatives, trust me with this vaccine.’ ”