East Texas health care workers receive first COVID-19 vaccines in area

UT Health North caretaker receives the first shot hours after doses arrive

vaccines arrive at East Texas Hospitals

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine are now in East Texas, and the first shots went to health care workers.

The first shot in East Texas was administered to Gary Viljoen, Director or Rehabilitation Services at UT Health North Campus Tyler. The shot was given by registered nurse Kara Mink.

“I have never seen anything like this (COVID-19) in my 20-year career,” Viljoen said. “I feel as frontline health care workers, it’s our duty to step up and take the vaccine to demonstrate to the general public that it’s safe to do so. Not only to protect yourself, but to protect our community.”

A UT Health North Campus Tyler caretaker received the first shot.
A UT Health North Campus Tyler caretaker received the first shot. (Source: Arthur Clayborn/KLTV)

Right behind Viljoen was Johnnita Young, a pharmacy technician at the hospital. She was also one of the two people who helped unpack the vaccine soon after it arrived on Tuesday morning. She said at the time, she was unaware that she would be among the first people to get the shot.

“It didn’t sting or nothing,” she said. “I barely felt her put the needle in my arm.”

“If you see the ravages of COVID-19, you’d hurry up and get in line also,” said Dr. Kirk Calhoun, President of UT Health Science Center.

Calhoun said all of the people getting the first doses are those who put their lives at risk to care for their community.

“We want to protect them as quickly as possible, because without them we’d have no one to take care of us,” Calhoun said. “God forbid we come down with COVID.”

Several doses were taken from the tray to begin thawing ahead of the first inoculations.
Several doses were taken from the tray to begin thawing ahead of the first inoculations. (Source: Blake Holland/KLTV)

As of 6 p.m., 40 shots had been given and 20 more were expected to be administered on Tuesday evening. Hundreds of shots will be given in the days to come, according to UT Health North CEO Cody Boyd.

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