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‘Grateful and honored:’ One year anniversary of first COVID-19 vaccine in East Texas

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Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 10:17 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2021 at 10:21 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - One year ago today marks the anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccine in East Texas. Since then, UT Health East Texas has given almost 60,000 vaccinations.

“Because of the staff that have worked so hard and were so dedicated during the past year, despite high numbers during the pandemic and taking care of incredibly ill people, people worked ‘round the clock to deliver these vaccines,” Executive Vice-President, Health Affairs, University of Texas at Tyler Dr. Julie Philley said.

On Thursday, UT Health East Texas commemorates the one-year anniversary with a plaque dedication and ceremony.

“It’s going to be a lifelong symbol, actually, that represents us, what’s been done on this occasion, at this institution, by tremendous people,” Philley said.

Director of Rehabilitation Services, UT Health North Campus Tyler Gary Viljoen was the first person in East Texas to get the vaccine.

“I felt very grateful and honored,” Viljoen said. “Some folks thought I might feel anxious, but I did not because I knew that tens of thousands of people before me had gone through clinical trials, so I had no concerns about taking the first vaccine.”

Pharmacy technician Johnnita Young got the second shot in East Texas. “They call me superstar,” Young said about her friends and family following her shot and work on the frontline. Just three hours before her vaccination, Young helped unpack the doses in a time crunch. “ No more than 3 minutes, and we had a timer. We nailed it.”

Young said vaccinations in East Texas were a sign of hope. “We needed something to calm this COVID down and it felt exciting. Everyone in the department was really excited about it.”

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