HARRIS COUNTY - Judge Lina Hidalgo says Harris County hit a record, vaccinating seven thousand people in one day Tuesday, and today she continued the push to get those who are hesitant to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccine appointments were opened to all adults last week. Harris County has now introduced "mobile vaccine units" at churches, community centers, and elsewhere, hoping it will help get vaccination shots out to people who aren’t otherwise able or don’t want to travel to get the shot.
Wednesday they were set up administering vaccines at the Greater Pure Light Missionary Baptist Church in Houston where Hidalgo spoke to reporters, asking people to use word of mouth to squelch rumors about vaccines.
"There are a lot of myths out there, and they’re rampant in various communities, particularly the Hispanic community and the African American community, and so that is the most powerful tool against that—is word of mouth—is people who’ve been vaccinating telling other people the truth of the matter is the vaccines are safe and effective," said Hidalgo.
The FDA granted "emergency use authorization" for the COVID-19 vaccines as the two-year study of the vaccines continues amid the pandemic.
Hidalgo’s choice of a prominent black church for her media appearance highlights a part of the push to get some hesitant minority populations vaccinated.
"A lot of hesitation for African American community—people of color—is framed around some of the mistrust historically," said Dr. Timothy Sloan, Pastor of "The Luke Church" in Humble.
He says he also was hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine and knew some in his congregation of 5,000 felt the same.
"I thought it might have been split 50/50 between our congregation and people in the community about whether or not to take the vaccine," said Sloan.
So he dove into the topic at Sunday service and even contacted and had an on-camera talk with Dr. Anthony Faucci to help him and his church make a decision about vaccination.
He says hesitancy about vaccines has formed in reaction to historical events like the Tuskegee study from the 1930s to ‘70s when black men with syphilis were experimented on by the government without their informed consent.
"They hear the trauma of that experiment," said Sloan. "They’ve heard the oral stories that have been passed down for generations."
Cesar Espinosa from FIEL Houston says many people in the Hispanic community have a similar hesitancy towards vaccines.
"When we started talking to the Guatemalan community, we started getting a very peculiar response in the sense that they were not gonna get vaccinated, because back in Guatemala with their parents and grandparents, there were different countries--including the U.S.--who tested vaccines on Guatemalan folks, including the polio vaccine, so for them getting vaccinated is- they’re fearful of it," said Espinosa.
Espinosa says many in the Hispanic community work up to four jobs and don’t have time or access to look up accurate information on vaccines. He hopes mobile vaccination sites can come to Hispanic communities to help make the COVID-19 vaccine more accessible there.