HOUSTON – The Harris Health System has found itself in a predicament as they expect to run out of their COVID-19 vaccine supply Friday.
“We started today with about 800 vaccines. We will use those all today and we don’t have any more vaccines for our patients,” said Dr. Glorimar Medina, the executive vice president of ambulatory care services for the Harris Health System.
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,” Dr. Vivian Ho said.
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 said 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.
Ho also said the vaccine shortage puts added pressure on providers.
“The providers have to figure out, ‘How many nurses do I have to have available? How many people do I have to have available to administer the vaccine and process all the paperwork,’” Ho said.
For now, the final doses run out today with Harris Health unsure of when the next batch will arrive.
“We can’t keep the entire community safe if we have a group that’s most at risk of getting this virus to continue to contract it and then, unfortunately, spread it to others,” Ho said.
Harris Health had been running seven vaccination sites but only ran one Friday.
“We have over 5,000 patients scheduled for next week and at this time we have no idea if we will be able to vaccinate them,” Medina said.
Medina said it’s unclear when they might get their next shipment.