HOUSTON – Some of the first frontline workers for the city of Houston are getting their coronavirus vaccines Monday after 6,000 doses arrived at the Houston Health Department and the Houston Fire Department.
Dr. Stephen Williams, director of HHD, said the first shots will go to the 260 workers who qualify in Phase 1A. He said the Health Department is also preparing to administer the vaccine to 365 school nurses in both the Houston and Pearland school districts.
Houston fire Chief Sam Peña said paramedic crews will be the first people in his department to get the vaccine. Peña said more than 50% of firefighters said they are interested in receiving the vaccine. He said support staff will be part of the Phase 1B rollout.
More than 400 firefighters have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic started. Three firefighters have died. Peña said a firefighter went to the emergency room Monday with respiratory problems and tested positive for COVID-19.
Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for Houston, said that while the vaccine is still being limited to people in phases 1A and 1B, it will eventually be rolled out to larger swaths of the public.
“When your opportunity comes, please, feel comfortable,” Persse said. “Get vaccinated.”
Harris County Public Health now vaccinating frontline health workers
On Monday, Harris County Public Health is administering doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to those eligible for Phase 1A. The Texas Department of State Health Services delivered 3,000 doses to HCPH on Dec. 23 to help support county efforts to vaccinate eligible recipients who may not already be served by the first round of the Pfizer vaccine.
The HCPH has been notifying local partners who support eligible Phase 1A individuals and is already providing vaccinations to healthcare staff.
Cases continue to rise
News of the additional doses in Houston came as new cases of the virus were reported in Houston.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said an additional 765 cases were reported Monday, bringing the city’s total to 116,043. One additional death was reported, bringing the total number of deaths in the city to 1,544.
Turner said the positivity rate increased to 11.6% Monday, up nearly a half-point from last week.
With just three days remaining in 2020, Houston officials urged people to keep their gatherings small.
Turner said people should cancel any New Year’s Eve gatherings that require people to gather in large numbers.
The mayor said that he does not have the resources available to police bars and parties, but he is asking people to exercise personal responsibility in an effort to control the spread of the virus.
“We continue to ask people to recognize that when you gather in large numbers in close proximity without your mask on, you’re creating a very bad environment,” Turner said.
Officials also reminded people not to drink and drive and that fireworks and celebratory gunfire are prohibited in Houston.