HOUSTON – Some medical workers and families in the Gulfton area say their communities are not getting fair access to the vaccine and they’re most vulnerable when it comes to the threat of the coronavirus.
For the past 23 years, Dr. Farizani has been taking care of people in the area.
“We are a community-based clinic. We see all ages from newborn to grandma and grandpa,” Farizani said.
She is the director at the Hillcroft Physicians in Gulfton. She said the clinic has not received the COVID-19 vaccine after being approved by the Department of State Health Services several weeks ago.
Farizani said a lot of her patients work at grocery stores, restaurants, they drive school buses and work in cafeterias. They’ve been asking when the vaccine will be available. The clinic serves one of Houston’s most populated and diverse areas of Harris County.
“We speak multiple languages and it’s very viable to our patients. Most of our patients are new immigrants and they have trouble (with) language barriers, cultural barriers,” Farizani said.
The Episcopal Health Foundation said the Gulfton location is already struggling with COVID- 19 and health disparities. Most families are on a low income and live in crowded households.
“They were on day one more vulnerable to getting the virus in the first place and since many of those groups already had pre-existing conditions if they did contract the virus they were more sicker, need hospitalization and ultimately to die than other populations,” said Elena Marks, CEO of Episcopal Health Foundation.
The clinic has been working hard since the start of the pandemic and now they’re faced with a difficult roadblock.
“We haven’t gotten our vaccines and they keep coming here asking for the COVID vaccines. We have not received vaccines for our staff we have 40 plus staff and none of us got vaccinated yet,” Farizani said.
It’s a frustrating process for Allison finer. She’s one of Dr. Farizani’s patients and tested positive for COVID-19 in April. Finer said after being laid off, she’s taking care of her mother who is 87 years old.
“I don’t understand why a primary care physician wouldn’t be one of the first priorities, I know the hospital people are, but certainly the people who approach the community. I think they see more people than someone in the hospital,” she said.
Farizani’s staff treats about 20,000 people.
She said she can’t understand why the Department of State Health Services has not provided them with the vaccine after she says they were approved many weeks ago.
“Very bad and it’s a shame. It’s really a shame. How disorganized can the state be not to distribute the vaccine right,” she said.
Farizani said the community needs the vaccine to protect themselves and their families from the deadly virus.
“They don’t feel comfortable going to the grocery stores to get their vaccine or CVS or even Walgreens because they have underlying conditions and they’re scared to get the vaccine at any corner,” she said.
The Texas Department of State Health Services released the following written statement:
“We expect to have about 121,000 more doses to allocate next week because we’ll be finished setting aside vaccine for the federal pharmacy/long-term care program. For more details, see our news release.
“The vaccine is still limited based on the amount provided to Texas each week by the federal government (Operation Warp Speed and the CDC), and we know there are a lot of people who want to be vaccinated, but there just isn’t enough right now. We’ll get more each week and will continue to allocate it around the state. Supply is increasing. We appreciate people’s patience and understanding as we work together to ensure people who are the most at risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 are vaccinated.”