This article has been updated to more clearly portray Dr. Teresa Baker’s stance on vaccines.
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Tuesday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott received the Pfizer-produced COVID-19 vaccination at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin — in the hopes that it will drive trust in the safety of the vaccine.
Abbott received the vaccine along with Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt, in what Hellerstedt said was meant to display faith in the science.
“The purpose for doing this,” Hellerstedt said, “is to show you that we truly, truly trust that this is a safe and effective vaccine.”
The first doses from Pfizer began arriving in Texas Dec. 14. During the event, Abbott explained that by the end of the month over 1 million vaccines will have been distributed in the state.
“I want to show my fellow Texans, that it’s safe and easy to get the vaccine and also remembering that I will never ask any Texan to do something that I’m not willing to do myself,” Abbott said.
Abbott explained he had confidence in the vaccine and was concerned about reports he’s heard about Texans who are unwilling to be vaccinated.
“There was a report that came out recently, that showed more than half of Texans were either unwilling or unsure about taking the vaccine because of concerns about it. And that’s exactly why we’re here today,” Abbott stated.
Some eligible healthcare workers in Texas are opting not to receive the vaccine.
“There’s a lot of people that have reservations about vaccines,” Dr. Teresa Baker, with Texas Tech Physicians, who encourages COVID-19 vaccination, said.
Some have already tested positive for the novel coronavirus, have the antibodies and think the vaccine should go to others first, Baker said.
“And I have had some colleagues that have not gotten the vaccine yet wanted to see how this rollout went,” Baker, said. “And I think, you know, I can understand that fear that we’re all living in a world of unknowns.”
Presented with more doses in freezer storage than people in the state’s first phase of distribution, some providers pivoted, offering remaining doses to public servants.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, accepted an offer from Doctors Hospital Renaissance in Edinburg, “only after it was explained they had administered as many vaccines as possible to their Tier A1 eligible healthcare workers, and that surplus vaccine had to be either administered or destroyed.”
I find it shocking that there is growing concern over the COVID-19 vaccine,” Lucio said in a statement provided to Nexstar Media Group. “I believe it is the key for our state to significantly reduce the number of infections and deaths, and I hope that by demonstrating to everyone that there is nothing to fear, I can help set the tone for getting vaccinated so that more Texans will accept the vaccine as it becomes available.”
A spokesperson for DSHS said there would be no separate allocation for legislators.
“The capitol nurse will be able to vaccinate members and staff who are in one of the vaccination priority groups,” DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said in an email early Tuesday evening.
Lucio, 74, lands in Phase 1B, the next section of rollout for people 65+ or adults with chronic health conditions. That phase is slated to start in a few weeks.
“I think it helps when we when the public sees public figures receive the vaccine and believe that it’s safe themselves, I think that always is going to help,” Baker said.
“It helps when you know that your own doctor believes in the vaccine,” she said. “It’s never going to take away all the fear. But I do believe that everybody being brave enough to stand up there and receive the vaccine is a good thing.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and infectious Disease and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was also vaccinated Tuesday.
President-elect Joe Biden was vaccinated earlier on Monday on live television, saying that he wanted to show Americans the shot is safe to get. His wife, Jill, also joined him.
The Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines were given emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month.
Abbott and Hellerstedt emphasized that the vaccine’s existence was not a reason to halt safety measures to mitigate spread like mask-wearing and social distancing.
WATCH— Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Health Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt, get COVID-19 vaccine:
While the Texas Medical Association applauded Gov. Abbott’s decision to get the vaccine, many people online were polarized by the governor’s vaccination, given Texas’ surging numbers due to what they consider inaction on his behalf.
A sampling of negative responses include: “Abbott does not deserve a #vaccine. He needs to go to a #bar in Austin,TX to #SupportBusiness instead” and “Governor Abbott is the biggest hypocrite. Makes us stay open but one of the first to get the vaccine. How many people had to die? Vote him out 11/8/22.”
But the vaccination was met with applause, too. With some praising the Governor leading by example.
“People need to see we can make Texas strong against the coronavirus if we all take these preventive measures to protect ourselves and others,” said Dr. Diana L. Fite, president of the TMA. “The governor is leading by example by getting the shot.”