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Health Care Workers Worried About H1N1 Vaccine Shortage

by ABC-7 Reporter/Anchor Veronique Masterson

EL PASO, Texas — Many in the Borderland are feeling the shortage of H1N1 vaccines, including health care workers themselves.

That has some concerned about their health and the health of the patients they take care of.

Officials at several hospitals in the Borderland tell ABC-7 they’re following CDC guidelines to prioritize who gets the vaccine first.

Some are also doing that with their staff, but not everyone’s okay with that plan.

“We were told we were going to be notified when it was available and that it would be the last week of October, so we haven’t received it yet, though,” says one medical professional.

This woman agreed to speak with us on the condition we didn’t identify her.

She explains, “We take precautions to try and not get too close to the patients.”

But says she does work closely with patients at Providence Memorial Hospital.

“We do have the patients put on masks and we have of course the anti-bacterial wipes and sanitizers that…I mean, we can only do so much,” she continues.

That’s why doctor Andres Enriquez tells ABC-7 it’s so important for professionals in the medical field to be vaccinated.

“It’s not so much for the protection of us, but for the protection of our patients.”

He says that’s one of the reasons why he and his entire family have been vaccinated.

“Lots of times we have patients that come in to see us and they are already ill with other illnesses and therefore, we want to protect them,” he explains.

ABC-7 contacted officials at local hospitals who say most of their employees have received the H1N1 vaccine.

More than 80 percent of the employees at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces have received them.

At University Medical Center about 23 percent of the 2,100 employees have been vaccinated.

For Las Palmas, vaccines have been given to about 10 percent of employees — those who have direct contact with patients.

As for Del Sol, officials say the number of workers vaccinated is not availible.

For Providence 13 percent have been given the H1N1 vaccine, also mainly those who care for patients.

The goal for all is to eventually get every employee vaccinated.

Still, at least one hospital employee is very frustrated.

“We’re exposed to it day in, day out and of course we take it home to our families and expose other patients that are there…we’re exposing other people at the hospitals, or at home. Wherever we go we’re exposing people to it.”

Officials at Providence Memorial say they’ve just received 1,300 doses of the H1N1 vaccine and plan to give those to their employees.

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