No power, no water, frozen or busted pipes, and icy roadways – this was the reality for many Texans during the recent winter storm. Due to these extreme conditions, the UTHealth Vaccine Hub closed for three days. What may not seem like a long period of time actually equaled out to approximately 5,000 individuals missing their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Reopening the hub

On Thursday, Feb. 18 the decision was made to reopen the hub at 10 a.m. Lining up that day were hundreds of patients and members of the community. The first in line was 71-year-old Hubert Harrell, who arrived one hour early in anticipation for what he described as a happy moment.

“I’m so thankful I was able to get my second dose today,” said Harrell. “I was worried that it wouldn’t be open, but everything went smoothly and everyone has been helpful and courteous.”

Also receiving her second dose that day was 67-year-old Angela Radusch, who was affected by the storm and had to temporarily relocate to a family member’s home.

“My husband was out of town. I couldn’t check my email and I knew the roads were going to be frozen and wet,” said Radusch. “I honestly didn’t know what else to do besides come down and hope and pray that it was going to be OK.”

Health care heroes

Andrew Casas, senior VP, UTHealth, COO, UT Physicians

Braving the roadways and pushing aside issues with power and water in their own homes, the Hub was fully staffed with personnel. From administering the vaccine to restocking supply shelves, volunteers and medical staff made it possible to reopen so quickly after this natural disaster.

“I want to thank every one of the employees who came in, especially those who are suffering with electrical or water issues,” said Andrew Casas, senior vice president of UTHealth and chief operating officer of UT Physicians, the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School.

Diane M. Santa Maria, DrPH, MSN, RN, dean, Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth

Words of thanks and appreciation were heard throughout the day, both from patients and staff. Personnel welcomed visitors with smiles under their masks, happy that they made it safely to their appointments. Patients voiced their gratitude for the opportunity to be vaccinated, especially during a difficult time where most of the city was still dealing with the aftereffects of the storm.

“I think patients are very grateful. They are grateful they were able to get here, they are grateful they were able to get access to the vaccine,” said Diane M. Santa Maria, DrPH, MSN, RN, dean of the Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth. “There’s a lot of hope in the air that this will start to turn a corner.”