UT Health Science Center RN Kara Mink prepares the vaccine for one of the first people to be vaccinated in East Texas.

Within just a couple of hours of opening appointment slots, COVID-19 vaccination appointments at UT Health East Texas are full for designated high-risk individuals.

UT Health East Texas announced Friday that vaccine appointments for those under phase 1A and 1B would begin on Monday, but after two hours all vaccine slots were filled.

“We had an overwhelming response to the availability of the vaccine, which allowed us to fill all slots,” said Dr. Tom Cummins, chief medical officer for UT Health East Texas. “We hope the state will see the great interest by the community and allocate us additional vaccine soon.”

Phase 1A includes healthcare workers, first and last responders and residents of long-term care facilities. Phase 1B includes people 65 and older and those 18 and older with at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

The vaccine appointments are being held at UT Health North Campus Tyler, 11937 U.S. Highway 271. There is no charge for the vaccine, and a second dose is required 28 days after the first shot.

UT Health is the only health care system in the region to be selected by the Texas Department of State Health Services as a mass vaccine location. The 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be given by appointment only, first-come, first-served basis. No walk-ins are being accepted at this time.

“We are thrilled at the rapid response from individuals ready to come and get the vaccine, and we are working with the state to secure additional allotment of vaccine,” Cummins said. “The vaccine is a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19. The more people we can get vaccinated, the sooner we can get this dreaded virus under control.”

When more vaccine doses are available for public distribution, UT Health East Texas said the distribution will be publicized through the media and on the health system’s website, uthealtheasttexas.com/coronavirus.

Cummins noted the importance of practicing COVID-19 safety protocols due to high community spread and COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

“Our caregivers are seeing the devastation of this virus every single day. We are seeing record numbers of people in our hospitals with COVID-19, so it is still extremely important for all East Texans to continue to do the things we’ve been talking about since the beginning of the pandemic — wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings,” Cummins said. “We know these things work to slow the spread of the virus.”

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I came to the Tyler Morning Telegraph in September 2019. I report on crime, courts, breaking news and various events in Tyler and East Texas.