I am happy to report that last week we reached a huge milestone in our work to beat the COVID-19 pandemic in Harris County — over half of our eligible population ages 12 and up has been fully vaccinated and 60% has received at least one shot! This milestone could not have been reached without all of the dedication of our public health workers who have worked tirelessly to vaccinate our residents. As a result, we have seen a consistent decline in indicators such as new cases and hospital usage over the past several months and we are getting closer to Threat Level Green. The road to recovery is clearer now than at any other time since this pandemic started.
But we’re not done yet. In fact, some of the hardest work is ahead of us. We must still vaccinate the population that is hesitant or hard to reach. We are continuing to see a decline in vaccination rates in vaccines administered by Harris County Public Health (HCPH) and all providers in the County. The zip codes with the highest proportion of their population vaccinated are wealthier than the zip codes with the lowest proportion of their population vaccinated, and Latino and Black residents are underrepresented in the distribution of vaccines administered. The Delta variant of this virus is wreaking havoc on populations across the globe, particularly those where vaccination rates are low. The dangers of COVID-19 are still lurking here in Harris County for all of those that remain unvaccinated. We cannot leave them behind.
Efforts to get folks vaccinated don’t happen on their own. Since December we’ve been reaching deep into our communities, and particularly communities of color, to bring them vaccines. Over the past five months we’ve visited more than 218 locations across the county including churches, senior living centers, clinics, and high schools. We’ve made vaccines available via mobile vaccine units and stationary vaccination centers, no appointment necessary. We’ve been getting the word out about the safety and efficacy of vaccines via media campaigns and encouraging vaccinations with gift card giveaways. And this past month, to reach our younger residents, we launched the HCPH Vaccine Scholarship Program to award scholarships of $5,000 to students who have been vaccinated through HCPH. We are giving away one scholarship per week for 10 weeks to 10 lucky vaccine recipients. The scholarships can be used by students to help cover tuition, room-and-board, and books to any community college, public college, or university in the state of Texas. To be eligible, you must be 18 or under, not yet have graduated high school, and have been vaccinated at any HCPH vaccination site before a raffle drawing.
Now is the time to get vaccinated and be part of our community’s recovery. You’ve got nothing to lose — vaccines are safe, effective in protecting you and your family from the most damaging effects of COVID-19, and completely free. If you have already been vaccinated, please talk about your experience with any friends or loved ones who haven’t. Visit us at NRG Park where anyone age 12 and up can receive either the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 7:00 p.m., no appointment needed. More information is available at ReadyHarris.com and those without transportation can call (832) 927-8787 to schedule a ride. Let’s get this done and put COVID-19 behind us.