Happy New Year Harris County! I know you all are just as happy as I am to say goodbye to 2020. We’ve faced so many dire challenges over the last year — unemployment, financial devastation, social isolation, illness, and death. We’ve sacrificed so much to stay apart and keep our community safe. And I’m sorry to say that, though it’s a new year, we are not where we need to be to end this pandemic. The number of people in our hospital system for COVID-19 continues to rise, again threatening the ability of our healthcare system to keep up and adding even more strain to our frontline healthcare workers. And we have yet to face the impact of all the gatherings that took place over the holidays. I go into further detail on our current situation and the ensuing state restrictions in a video here.
But we do have reasons to look forward to the new year. The incredible development of a COVID-19 vaccine is a testament to the power of modern medicine, science, and the tireless efforts of researchers and institutions — many from right here in Harris County. We have been working for months to plan for the arrival and distribution of vaccines, and our Public Health Department has been working diligently to prepare and ensure local clinics are registered and ready. We are currently in phase 1A and 1B of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, which means we are vaccinating frontline healthcare workers, residents of long-term healthcare facilities, essential workers, residents over 65, and those with chronic health conditions.
So far, Harris County’s role in vaccine distribution is limited. We were given a very small number of vaccines (around 8,000 so far, in a county of 5 million residents) to distribute to qualifying individuals who might have problems receiving them elsewhere, such as teachers, funerary directors, and home healthcare providers. Given the very small numbers, we are not currently in a position where we can reasonably offer vaccines publicly. The County as a whole at last has received just over 200,000 vaccines for individuals in phase 1A and 1B, the bulk of which are being distributed by non-governmental providers like pharmacies and hospitals, but the number of qualifying individuals in Harris County is many times that number. We are advocating for more vaccines for Harris County Public Health to distribute and, more importantly, for our community. We will keep you informed as more information becomes available. In the meantime, we will continue distributing vaccines efficiently, fighting to address disparities, and advocating for our community. For the most current information on vaccination supply and distribution from the state, please visit the Texas Department of State Health Services COVID-19 Vaccination webpage here.
So many people are hurting right now – grieving the loss of loved ones, struggling to pay their bills, or both – and I have to ask you to endure this pandemic and its accompanying restrictions a little longer. We’re in a very precarious situation. Unless we see any major changes happen fast, things are likely to get much worse before they get better, even with a vaccine. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a very long way to go. Please, keep social distancing and wearing a mask when you are in public. Get vaccinated if you are eligible. Let’s get to that finish line having saved as many lives as possible.