Houston Health Department workers and fire department paramedics received their first opportunities to be vaccinated as their shipment of 6,000 vaccine doses rolled out Dec. 28.
"We do feel a sense of hope about the pandemic ending next year, but we do have a way to go," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference marking the milestone.
The mayor encouraged residents to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing and to avoid New Year's Eve gatherings to limit the spread of the virus.
The Week 2 distribution, representing over 600,000 doses across the state, continues to prioritize front-line health care workers who have contact with COVID-19 patients, under the Phase 1A guidelines established by the state Department of State Health and Human Services. Both the fire and health departments were allocated 3,000 doses each.
Houston Health Department Director Stephen Williams said 260 of his staff members are eligible and have been notified, and another 365 Houston ISD and Pearland ISD school nurses will be able to be vaccinated with this round of doses.
As vaccines become more widely available, more populations will be eligible to receive the vaccine. The next group in line will be those over age 65 and those with underlying risk factors. Williams said his department will be closely monitoring local distribution efforts to ensure equitable access. The department is also reaching out to nursing homes and other senior living communities who may not have secured vaccine distribution arrangements.
"We will serve as a safety net provider, based on allotment and availability," he said. "We will use the same principles and strategies that we used for testing ... to ensure there is sufficient vaccine uptake in vulnerable communities especially."
Houston health, fire departments begin administering 6,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine
Houston Health Department front-line staff began receiving vaccines for the coronavirus on Dec. 28. (Courtesy Houston Health Department)