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One year later: UT Health San Antonio professor reflects on historic vaccination

"I always tell people that was my 15 minutes of fame. I do see it as a part of history here in San Antonio and Bexar County," said Dr. Cantu.

SAN ANTONIO — Mass vaccination efforts against the coronavirus began one year ago in Bexar County, and among the first sites in Texas to receive the groundbreaking vials of the Pfizer vaccine was UT Health San Antonio.

On Dec. 14, 2020, the university announced it would begin administering the vaccine to its front-line health care workers including doctors, nurses and care team members. A day later, nursing professor Adelita Cantu, PhD, RN, FAAN was first to roll her sleeve up on campus, and is considered to be one of the first people in Bexar County to be vaccinated.

Credit: KENS
Dr. Cantu receives her first Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 15, 2020.

"I always tell people that was my 15 minutes of fame. I do see it as a part of history here in San Antonio and Bexar County," said Dr. Cantu.

Dr. Cantu said she felt fine after receiving her first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Since then, she's received her booster and has continued to remain clear of the virus. She knows others haven't been so lucky.

 "The vaccine isn't a hundred percent but it was a very high percentage. What we do know is most people who have had breakthrough cases have had minor symptoms, and not enough in terms of severity to take them to the emergency room or hospital. It's very good," she said.

She said the vaccine is the best defense, especially as variants like delta and omicron continue to be of concern. Dr. Cantu said mutations are normal in live viruses but can be stopped.

"We need to educate people about the vaccine and the importance of that vaccine so that we can stop variations from happening."

She's thrilled children can also receive the vaccine now calling it a miracle of our medical science'.

"It's been wonderful to know that researchers are continuing to look at the data and continuing this research to get all age groups covered," Dr. Cantu said.

In addition to her optimism of the pandemic ending in 2022, she's hopeful more people will become vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and to improve the public health infrastructure.

"We need to improve our ability to respond quickly and debrief on a lot of this so we can plan going forward. Ultimately, because I think it's no surprise that we've heard this before that pandemics are going to continue happening. What can we take away from this one? What are those lessons learned?" 

 One thing she will continue focusing on is bringing the vaccine out into the community through pop up clinics and a new initiative through UT Health San Antonio called Health Confianza.