The gravest challenge of 2020 has made its way into the new year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the nation, leaving residents uneasy on when they’ll potentially receive relief.

One form of relief comes from allotments of vaccinations, which have begun transporting across the United States. The vaccine, created in the labs of Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc., has finally begun to make its way to the greater Goliad area.

While Goliad itself does not yet have a medical practice capable of administering a vaccination, the county has pointed residents in the direction of several Victoria locations that have either already received an allotment of vaccine or intend to receive one shortly. The county received the information on vaccination locations from the State of Texas DSHS Region 8 Health Department on Jan. 5.

These locations, all in the city of Victoria, have signed up to be vaccine distributors through Texas DSHS:

•Scott P. Stein DO. PA, 601 E. St. 305 West.

•Fabian Espinosa MD. PA, 2710 Hospital Dr. Ste. 200

•Stephen M. Dentler DO. PA, 9410 NE Zac Lentz Pkwy 202

•Victoria County Public Health Department, 2805 N Navarro 102

•HEB Pharmacy, 6106 N. Navarro

•HEB Pharmacy, 1505 E. Rio Grand

•Dr. Ariel Arquisola, 2705 Hospital Dr. Ste 204

•Victoria Ped and Adol Association, 4304 Retama Cir

The county told residents via Facebook on the same day that locations may not have received vaccines yet, or may have run out of their current allotment, and to contact the locations for further confirmation on vaccination supplies. For the time being, though, the locations have signed up to be a distribution center for the vaccine.

Vaccinations will currently only be available for those in “Tier 1B” distribution, which are residents above the age of 65, or those aged 16 or over with a chronic medical condition. 

The Moderna vaccine was approved by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for use on Dec. 18, 2020, and was authorized by the European Union on Jan. 6. The vaccination, given via shot in the arm, is one of two major vaccines coming into the market, the other being distributed by Pfizer/BioNTech. 

Both vaccines are called “Messenger RNA vaccines,” otherwise known as mRNA. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines “take advantage of the process that cells use to make proteins in order to trigger an immune response and build immunity to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” This is in contrast to majority of vaccines, which “use weakened or inactivated versions or components of the disease-causing pathogen to stimulate the body’s immune response to create antibodies.”

The vaccine is best described by the CDC as “instructions for the cell on how to make a piece of the ‘spike protein’ that is unique to SARS-CoV-2.” Since only a portion of the protein is made, the vaccine does not do any harm to the person vaccinated. After the piece of spike protein is created, the cell breaks down the mRNA strand and disposes of them using enzymes in the cell. The mRNA strand never enters the cell’s nucleus or affects genetic material, clearing up attempts at disinformation regarding the vaccination’s potential modifications of genetic makeup.

Once the protein is displayed on the cell surface, the immune system begins to produce antibodies and activate T-cells to fight off what it thinks is an infection by the protein. These antibodies are specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, protecting against future infection.

This technology has been tested rigorously before being authorized for use within the United States, and has been studied for over a decade. The mRNA vaccines do not contain a live virus, do not carry a risk of causing disease in a vaccinated person, and once again do not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.

One major difference between the two vaccinations, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, is in their allowed temperature for storage. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be stored at around minus-70 degrees Celsius (minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit) and lasts just five days in a refrigerator. Moderna’s vaccine is a bit easier to store, being kept at temperatures of minus-20 degrees Celsius (minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to six months, and at refrigerator temperatures of 2-8 degrees Celsius (35-46 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 30 days. One other difference is in dilution, as vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be diluted for injection, and used within six hours once diluted (or thrown out). The Moderna vaccine, on the other hand, does not need to be diluted prior to use.

The vaccination’s introduction into the greater Goliad community is a needed sign of hope in the midst of a dark winter fighting COVID-19. According to Texas DSHS data, on Jan. 6 alone there were 19,535 new confirmed cases of the virus in Texas, with over 1.6 million cases taking place throughout the state since March 2020. Texas DSHS estimates that there are two active cases in Goliad County as of Jan. 6, with 208 confirmed cases in the county since the pandemic began.

•tleffler@mysoutex.com•

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