HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo spoke to the community Tuesday on the county’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 and encouraged eligible residents to obtain their second booster as a new omicron variant emerges. Hidalgo was joined by Erica Brown, MD, MBA, FACHE, of Harris County Public Health.
Together, they stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and a booster shot, for those who haven’t, and for those who qualify to get a second booster now approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“We have more testing and treatment available than ever, but the vaccines are our strongest defense,” Hidalgo said.
Hidalgo explained that, after 25 months of fighting to slow the spread of COVID, her office wanted to share some positive news.
Hidalgo said the COVID ICUs in hospitals and general populations are at their lowest points since May of 2020.
“We need that for our community, we need that for our economy,” she said.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the pandemic is completely over.
Hidalgo explained that while the hospitalizations have come down, new cases have stopped decreasing and are plateauing, and what we’ve seen in the past is that it is possible that, once they start plateauing, they go right back up.
“We are watching western Europe, we are watching Asia; they are seeing those case increases, some of these countries are seeeing issues in their hospitals,” she said. “what remains to be seen here in Harris County is, if and when we see the next wave, have enough people been vaccinated? Are there enough treatments, are there enough therapeutics to where our hospitals will be spared?”
Hidalgo says the county doesn’t know the answer to that yet, but we all can do our part to make sure that we move past this and that COVID as a taxing pandemic becomes a “distant memory.” To do that, Hidalgo said, we need to continue getting our vaccinations and booster shots.
Hidalgo reminded that Harris County had to bring in about 500 nurses from out of town to help deal with the overflow of patients in the fall.
“We know that these vaccines wain in efficiency after some time. We know that for some folks who are immunocompromised and older, the impact is even worse. But the idea is that if you get the vaccine, you might still get the virus, but you are very, very unlikely to end up in the hospital,” she said.
Harris County Public Health (HCPH) will begin administering the 2nd booster dose of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines across all vaccination sites to eligible residents effective immediately. On March 29, the FDA authorized a 2nd booster dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for older people and certain immunosuppressed individuals. Following the FDA’s announcement and the CDC’s recommendation statement, Harris County Public Health has adopted the following COVID-19 guidelines.
- Residents 50 years of age and older who are not moderately or severely immunocompromised may receive a Pfizer or Moderna 2nd booster dose at least 4 months after receipt of their first booster dose.
- A 2nd booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine may be administered to certain immunocompromised individuals 12 years of age and older at least 4 months after receipt of a first booster dose.
- A 2nd booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine may be administered to certain immunocompromised individuals 18 years of age and older at least 4 months after the first booster dose.
- Additionally, adults 18-49 years of age who are not moderately to severely immunocompromised and received a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 primary dose and booster dose at least 4 months ago may now receive a 2nd booster dose using mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. (Pfizer or Moderna only)
All COVID-19 vaccines are free to the community and walk-ins are accepted across all county vaccination sites. Residents can register for their COVID-19 vaccine or booster doses by calling 832-927-8787 or visiting HCPH’s vaccine registration page.
HCPH urges all residents to do their part during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue COVID-19 best practices. This includes getting a vaccination and getting tested if you experience symptoms to best protect yourself and others.