Stronger Houston: Disparities in COVID vaccine rates in rural and urban areas

Efforts are underway to get more people vaccinated

HOUSTON – At the Igloo headquarters along I-10 in Katy, Wednesday morning was all about vaccinations.

That is where several dozen people showed up to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Pretty convenient for me. I’m just right here at work so I went over there and took the shot real quick and came back to work,” Santiago Cruz said.

“Makes it nice because people can have the convenience of it here in the area so that we can offer it to as many people in our community as possible,” Christine Brinkley, the VP of Human Resources at Igloo explained.

The walk-in clinic was part of Waller County’s continued effort to get more people vaccinated in their community, which is something that can be tough for those living in rural counties.

“Initially when we started, folks (needed) to have access to the right tech, especially in rule areas where it was first-come, first-serve. You’re trying to make an appointment and the fastest finger first gets the appointment to the vaccine,” Palak Jalan, the Chief Population Health Officer with Access Health said.

So far, Waller County estimates about 28% of its population has been vaccinated. A number they would like the see continue to grow.

“If you want to get the vaccine, you can get it a lot easier than you could in the past. So hopefully, that will bring more people out,” Brian Cantrell, the Chief of Waller County Office of Emergency Management said.

Also stepping up to give a helping hand, organizations and nonprofits like the United Way. They have played a big role in facilitating this vaccine clinic and many other outreach efforts.

“We definitely are there to support anything with can with the county’s efforts in getting this done,” Bobbie Wilson, the United Way of Greater Houston Waller Center Manager said.

“Even if we get 100 today, that’s a win. That’s 100 more people that are vaccinated and it’s 100 more people that are working towards safety and herd immunity,” said Jalan.

It is a similar story down the road in Chambers County where health officials are doing what they can to encourage residents to get vaccinated.

“We have doses available for you, just come to the pod and register and we’ll vaccinate you,” Kevin Crump, the Chambers County Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator said.

The Health Department also recently posted to their Facebook saying they are currently below the state average on vaccinations, with about 27% of their population vaccinated.

They are hoping more vaccine clinics will help turn that around.

“We’ve been doing this a long time. To get to this point where the vaccines are available for us to mitigate this disease it’s a great thing,” said Crump.

A short drive up the road in Liberty County, roughly 24% of the population has been vaccinated according to the Department of State Health Services.

And the efforts to get more people vaccinated are coming through avenues other than just at healthcare facilities.

“They just said thank you. They really appreciated the fact that we were able to bring that to them because many of them were still on the fence even about getting the vaccine,” Pastor Terence Edwards with Turkey Creek Baptist Church said.

Turkey Creek Baptist Church said they are doing their part and recently held a vaccination clinic, adding they did so because it’s the right thing to do.

“Just that availability and access for us is our responsibility and our duty even within that rural area as a church to serve the community and to give back,” said Pastor Edwards.

Bottom line, many in these rural counties say it’s not really a matter of supplies being an issue anymore, it’s about getting people to healthcare providers and clinics to get the vaccine and educating others who remain hesitant.

“I think we’ve come a long way to get to the point where anybody can walk up and get the vaccine,” Jalan explained.

“We’re a lot better off like I said them before so it’s just a matter of getting folks through the door to getting them vaccinated,” said Cantrell.

Below are the links to register for the COVID-19 vaccine:

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Galveston-born, award-winning journalist, dog owner, foodie & occasional golfer.