‘Sneakiest of viruses’: Officials urge vigilance as coronavirus vaccine arrives in Houston

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner provided an update Monday on the status of the coronavirus pandemic in Houston.

HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that while the coronavirus vaccine has arrived in the city, people should remain vigilant to control the spread of the virus.

The first doses in the Houston area arrived at MD Anderson on Monday and more doses are arriving at other hospitals in the Texas Medical Center throughout the week.

Turner said that while the vaccine’s arrival is good news, the virus is still having a daily impact. He said an additional 745 cases were reported by the Houston Health Department on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 104,962. An additional six deaths were also reported Monday, bringing the total number of deaths in the city to 1,493. The city’s positivity rate is at 10.5%, up from 8.8% last week.

“We must continue to do our part,” Turner said.

4 times more than previously known

City health officials also announced the results of an antibody survey that was conducted in September.

Dr. Lauren Hopkins, of the Houston Health Department, said the survey found that 13.5% of the people whose blood were tested for coronavirus antibodies were positive. She said that means there four times more people who had the virus than what was previously known. She said that works out to 250,000 Houstonians who had been infected with the virus who may not have had any symptoms of the illness.

Hopkins said that the second phase of the survey, which will be conducted in January, will involve retesting people who participated in September’s survey to determine how long their antibodies last. An additional 420 homes will also be randomly selected for voluntary participation in the survey.

Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for Houston, said the survey shows that masking up, washing your hands and keeping your distance are still extremely important.

“It is the sneakiest of viruses,” Persse said.

Building confidence in the vaccine

Persse said the technology used to create the coronavirus vaccine was originally developed 15 years ago when the SARS virus was prevalent. He said there was no need to create the vaccine then because the virus went away.

Persse said that the side effects reported with the vaccine are mild and include arm soreness and a mild fever.

Turner encouraged hospitals who receive the vaccine to make the vaccination process transparent so that people can see the process. He also encouraged hospitals to start giving vaccinations to the first phase of people as soon as possible.

The mayor said he also plans to publicly receive his vaccination whenever it is made available to him.