Even though Houstonians have been able to get vaccinated for Covid-19 since before Christmas, between lack of availability and tiered vaccination priorities, it's been nigh on impossible for many to get a shot. Despite Harris County's population of nearly 5 million, only about 351,391 people in the county have received their first dose of a Covid-19 as of February 9, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. (DSHS reporting is actually lagging a few weeks, so this number is most likely higher.) However, it should get easier for thousands of Houstonians in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was establishing community mass-vaccination pilot sites in three spots across Texas, including Dallas's Fair Park, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, and NRG Stadium here in Houston. Together, these sites are expected to vaccinate up to 10,000 people a day, according to a Texas Tribune report.
"These mass community sites will allow us to expand access to Covid-19 vaccinations in underserved communities and help us mitigate the spread of the virus," Abbott said. "Thank you to our partners at FEMA for working with the State of Texas to establish these vaccination sites and help us protect our most vulnerable."
According to Abbott, the three sites should open by February 24. If all goes well, then more mass-vaccination sites could open across the state.
FEMA, which is bringing its own allotment of vaccines, will be working with state emergency management officials to run the site that's aimed at aiding underserved communities, particularly communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. According to Harris County Public Health data, the majority of Covid-19 cases in the county have been people of color (44.3 percent Hispanic/Latino and 18.7 percent Black).
Along with Texas, 10 other states are getting at least one the these pilot sites, according to NBC News, as part of President Joe Biden's newest goal to vaccinate 150 million people during his first 100 days in office. Only about 9.9 percent of Americans have been vaccinated so far, according to NPR. It's estimated that at least 70 percent of the population will need to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
So, we still have a long way to go, but this is good news for Houston, which, as of February 8, has had 163,438 total Covid-19 cases and 1,838 total fatalities.
"On behalf of all Houstonians, I thank the White House for its plan to establish a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at NRG Park in Houston. Getting the vaccine into the arms of as many people as possible as quickly as possible is vital to ending this pandemic and saving lives," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a release. "We look forward to working with FEMA, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and Harris County to iron out the details, including registration and access. We must work collaboratively to vaccinate as many people as possible and in a targeted way to include a diverse population."