Mayor Turner, other officials encourage people, especially communities of color, to set aside reluctance, get COVID vaccine

HOUSTON – Several Texas and local elected officials representing some of the communities that have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic will receive their COVID-19 vaccinations at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was one of the speakers at a news conference where, “UT System and UTHealth leaders, along with the elected officials, (provided) factual information about the COVID-19 vaccines, including vaccine safety, who is eligible to receive the two-dose vaccine, and why everyone who is eligible - especially those in higher-risk categories, should choose to be vaccinated.”

Turner was among those receiving the vaccine. He has said he plans to publicly take his vaccine as soon as he is eligible.

Giuseppe Colasurdo, president of UTHealth, opened the news conference asking people to have patience when it comes to getting the vaccine. He said medical professionals are doing their best to get to everyone, and everyone will have a chance.

University of Texas System executive vice chancellor John Zerwas also echoed the point, saying the supply of the vaccine is “grossly” below the demand. Zerwas also said UTHealth is moving into Phase B of vaccinations. That group includes those over 65 and people 16 and older dealing with certain health issues.

Turner emphasized the importance of getting the vaccine and how impactful it is for leaders to set an example for the communities. Turner said every time he gives numbers for Houston, he sees that communities of color, particularly the Black and Hispanic communities, are some of the most impacted by the virus.

Many people in communities of color, and other communities, are reluctant to get the vaccine, Turner said. According to Turner, he was speaking to someone who told him that she was reluctant to get the vaccine, but that if he got it, she would too.

“It makes a difference. It makes a difference when people see those who they have voted for and those who represent them stepping up,” Turner said. Turner is scheduled to get the vaccine on Jan. 4.

Other speakers also addressed the importance of leading by example, especially for communities of color. Many of the speakers were open about being apprehensive about getting the vaccine, but they all said it was important to get the vaccine for their health and the public’s health.

The event was organized by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who said she was getting the vaccine because she is an 81-year-old Black woman and she wanted to encourage her constituents to also get the vaccine. Thompson said she lost a sister to COVID-19 and there is nothing like the heartbreak of not being able to be with a loved one in their last moments and only being able to organize and attend a small funeral. She encouraged people to put aside their reluctance and go and take their vaccine when their time comes.

Rep. Garnet Coleman said he has Type 2 diabetes and other underlying health conditions. He said he too has lost a family member and friends with underlying issues to coronavirus so, despite his hesitancy, he is getting the vaccine because he needs it.

Coleman said he wants people who have health issues to see him getting the vaccine and feel encouraged to get it. The deaths are not going to go away until people start building immunity, Coleman said. Until then, people have to do their best to practice social distancing and other health protocols, Coleman said.

According to Rep. Harold Dutton, he was trying to weigh the pros and cons of getting the vaccine but ultimately decided to get it because his daughter, who is a doctor, asked him if he was more afraid of the virus or the vaccine.

Dutton said he would encourage everybody, especially older people or those with other issues to take the vaccine because it makes a lot of difference.

About the Author:

Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli has been a digital news editor at KPRC 2 since 2018. She is a published poet and has background in creative writing and journalism. Daniela has covered events like Hurricane Harvey and the Astros World Series win. In her spare time, Daniela is an avid reader and loves to spend time with her two miniature dachshunds.