EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Almost six months after the first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in the Borderland, not all El Paso hospital staff are vaccinated against the virus.
KTSM 9 News reached out to El Paso hospitals to see how receptive their staff have been to receiving the vaccine. All said that it is not mandatory that staff get vaccinated.
A spokesperson for University Medical Center told KTSM that while it is voluntary, staff have had a positive response to getting vaccinated.
“The response by the staff to get vaccinated has been very positive. At this time, 97 percent of staff are vaccinated,” said Ryan Mielke, a spokesperson for UMC. “The vaccine is also offered to all new associates during their on-boarding and orientation process although, for the most part, many have already been vaccinated.”
The Hospitals of Providence have seen a similar response from staff.
“It is not a requirement at this time for staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, however, the majority of our staff were excited and did opt to receive the vaccine as soon as it was readily available,” said THOP spokesperson Monique Poessiger.
Las Palmas Del Sol did not give KTSM a percentage of vaccinated staff, but sent us this statement.
“The COVID-19 vaccine has been provided to all Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare employees and medical staff who chose to receive one,” a spokesperson for the hospital said.
An El Paso nurse who was hospitalized with COVID-19 in 2020 says she decided to get the vaccine, being one of the first health care workers to receive a first dose in December.
“Knowing what I had gone through with my own experience as a COVID survivor, I definitely didn’t want to put myself in those shoes again, knowing that the vaccine could provide me additional protection,” said nurse said Adriana Saucedo.
Saucedo is currently working in the COVID-19 unit at a local hospital as a discharge nurse.
However, a respiratory therapist who considers El Paso home but who worked as a traveling respiratory therapist, said she will not get the COVID-19 vaccine. Those in her area of expertise still play a vital role for those who have or had COVID, even though cases and hospitalizations are starting to decrease in the Borderland.
“It’s definitely not hard to find work because now we’re dealing with the long-term injury of the lungs, so were still front and center in this medical profession — respiratory therapists are needed still,” Misty Huffman said.
Huffman said that she is leaving the health care industry and the vaccine is a big reason for doing so.
“I walked away from health care because of this, I’m very disenfranchised with how we’re doing this — we’re supposed to have the freedom to choose our medical treatment and I feel like this is being forced,” Huffman said. “And this is only an experimental vaccine, it’s not even approved, and to force people, to give them ultimatums whether to see their parents in a nursing home.”
On Wednesday, hospitalizations dropped to below 50 people for the first time since March 2020. According to data on epstrong.org, 57.8 percent of the population 12 years old and up have been fully vaccinated, while 83.2 percent of the population 65 years old and up have been fully vaccinated.