At noon on Friday, University Medical Center of El Paso posted notices on Facebook and other social media that the hospital had 5,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine available.

By 12:12 p.m., people had signed up for all of the shot slots, UMC spokesperson Ryan Mielke told El Paso Inc.

More than a little surprised, he quickly let it be known that all the doses were spoken for.

The hospital had just finished dispensing all of its Pfizer vaccine doses to eligible 1A and 1B recipients – health workers and people who are over 65 or have a medical condition.

“We’ve been letting people know all week on social media to follow us and turn on notifications because we will be announcing it,” Mielke said. “Just in the last week, our followers on Facebook have gone up 30%.

“So people are sharing our social media accounts with their friends and as soon as we post something, they are all notified. The demand is huge.”

So far, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, 79,400 doses have been allocated to El Paso County and 51,010 people have gotten the shot.

Last Sunday, Jan. 10, in a very different setting at El Paso International Airport, the city got a dose of the same kind of demand when it opened its new vaccine dispensary at 301 George Perry Blvd. for the first time to people who had made arrangements on the city’s website at www.epstrong.org.

The day’s allotted doses ran out before the cars in the line, and many had to turn around and go home.

But, Jorge Rodriguez, the city and county emergency management coordinator, said everyone who had an appointment that day and arrived on time got their shot, though the wait was about two hours.

“That was the first day we started on our 5,000 vaccine doses allocation,” Rodriguez said, adding the operation has smoothed out considerably, and they were able to dispense 1,550 vaccines on Tuesday.

“We ran out on Wednesday, but we just got another 5,000 dose allotment and we will be starting again (on Friday).”

The city will redesign the George Perry site this week to make it more efficient, though it will mean fewer people getting shots.

As of Friday, there were about 100,000 El Pasoans who had signed up and were waiting for their call and a vaccine appointment.

El Paso Fire Chief Mario D’Agostino said vaccine allotments coming from the federal government are arranged through the state, which determines how much vaccine each Texas county will get – depending, in part, on how well their programs are going.

And, comparatively speaking, El Paso’s is going pretty well.

“We were talking to the state today, and they said the county population makes up 2.89% of the state’s total population,” D’Agostino said. “As of this morning, the county of El Paso had received 3.75% of the vaccines the state was allotted.

“We’re proving we can get the volume done, so we’re actually getting that extra push which is great for the community.”

But even as the program speeds up in El Paso, people should be patient because the county has a population of 840,000, so getting everyone vaccinated will take a while.

“If we wanted to get the whole county vaccinated to the 85% mark, it would take about six months – but we would have to be doing 50,000 a week,” D’Agostino said. “It’s a big difference from what we’re being supplied right now.”

So that means continuing to wear a mask and avoiding crowds to stay safe.


Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at dcrowder@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 630-6622.

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