Here are things to know for Friday, Jan. 22:
1. Fired Harris County Health doctor accused of stealing COVID-19 vaccine, DA Kim Ogg says
A Harris County Public Health doctor is accused of stealing a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced in a press release Thursday.
Officials said Dr. Hasan Gokal stole the vial that contained nine doses while working at the county vaccination site at Lyndsay Lyons Park in Humble on Dec. 29, 2020.
A week later, he told a fellow Harris County Public Health employee, who then reported him to supervisors.
According to Harris County Public Health, the mishandling of the vaccine could result in the loss of government funding for the county, which sparked an investigation into the accusation.
2. Harris Health System canceling COVID vaccination appointments due to short supply
The Harris Health System has found itself in a predicament as they expect to run out of their COVID vaccine supply by noon Friday.
The system consists of Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals, plus 18 health centers and more than a dozen clinics, has been inoculating about 1,500 people a day. But, industry experts say the shortage will affect much more than Harris Health patients.
“If they don’t get access to the vaccines that everyone else is getting, they put the entire city at risk,” said Dr. Vivian Ho.
Ho is a health economist at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine. Harris Health serves the uninsured and underinsured from low-income communities. Ho says those patients are most at risk for COVID-19 and since many in that community work frontline service jobs -- if they’re at risk -- we’re all at risk.
3. Foreign nationals traveling to Houston and other cities to get vaccinated
Oren Murphy is a former minesweeper for the U.S. Navy. Sixty years later, he is navigating the deadly challenge of COVID-19.
“I just dread getting anywhere around it, because I know if I get it I’m probably gone,” said Murphy from inside his Conroe home. At 83 and with bad lungs Murphy desperately wants a vaccination.
He’s not alone.
Others in our area are too, which is why our investigation stunned many. KPRC 2 Investigates discovered foreign nationals who have traveled to Houston and elsewhere are getting vaccinated.
Dr. Joseph Varon of United Memorial Medical Center says he first heard of foreign nationals receiving vaccines intended for Texans here in Houston at the end of last month.
4. State health report finds alarming rate of cancer diagnosis among children in 5th ward
Dianna Cormier Jackson has lived in the Kashmere Gardens area for over 60 years.
Jackson said she’s lost family members and neighbors to several types of cancer in that time.
“My mom, my uncle, two of my brothers, one of them worked for Southern Pacific, but they just brushed it off, my ex-husband died, my mother in law, a whole bunch of my neighbors,” Jackson said.
Jackson said Creosote has been an issue in the area since she can remember.
“When I was coming up as a kid the creosote was there. You could smell it,” Jackson said.
Creosote is a cancer-causing chemical that was once used to treat wooden rail ties at an old railroad facility, now owned by Union Pacific.
5. Amid the pandemic, Pre-K enrollment has fallen off a cliff and the impact of that can be far reaching
Pre-K education is a critical part of a child’s development. It’s not a required part of a child’s educational years, but it prepares them for kindergarten, gives them a greater chance of graduating high school and sets them up for a good job with good pay.
But Pre-K enrollment is dropping drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Houston Independent School District, it’s down 20% compared to last year’s enrollment numbers.
Channel 2 Investigates found it’s not just HISD. Enrollment numbers have fallen off a cliff across the region. Spring ISD is down 44%. Alvin ISD is down 18%. Texas City hasn’t even been able to start enrollment yet. Pre-K is taking a back seat to COVID-19.