HOUSTON - It’s a new year. So what can we expect regarding COVID-19 in 2021? On Saturday, the city’s first free COVID-19 vaccination clinic will be open for people who are in the Phase 1A and 1B categories.
"We’re going to be providing about 750 vaccines," explains Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner who says the 750 Houstonians who will receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in the city’s first ever COVID-19 vaccination clinic will have to fall under the 1A or 1B classification, including medical front line workers, those 65 years and up or anyone 18 and over with a chronic illness.
The Houston Health Department’s COVID-19 Hotline will begin accepting calls for appointments at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 2, 2021.
"They will be given a time slot and they will be told where to go to get their vaccine. This is just the initial step. We recognize there’s a big demand for the vaccine," the mayor explains.
Mayor Turner says COVID cases in Houston are on the rise, particularly after holiday gatherings.
"The numbers are still increasing. The positivity rate in the city of houston and the number of people in our hospitals, those numbers are still going up."
In fact, UTHealth Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Troisi says in the Texas Medical Center alone "of people who are tested for COVID about 15% are positive. That’s considered very high. ICU beds are full. They’ve gone to Phase 2 which means they’ve changed some of the regular beds and areas into ICU beds."
"The number of people in our hospitals is increasing. That number right now is a little over 1,800. We’re still not where we were over the summer. That number was over 2,400 but we’re moving in that direction," says Mayor Turner.
"We will probably need at least 70% maybe more of the population vaccinated before we have crowd immunity. Only about two million Americans had been vaccinated as of the end of 2020," adds Dr. Troisi.
"My hope is still July 1, 2021 things will be looking a lot, lot better. That’s my hope," says Mayor Turner but Dr. Troisi wouldn’t predict a date, saying there are too many unknowns. Those can include, "whether people who are vaccinated can spread the virus? Can they have an asymptomatic infection, not have symptoms but infect someone else? And then you throw into that mix, this new variant that was originally detected in England. We are now finding it’s here. We don’t know how widespread it is but it appears to be more infectious."
The phone number to call to make an appointment for Saturday's first ever City of Houston Vaccine Clinic is (832) 393-4220. If you aren’t one of the 750 people selected to receive a vaccine, the mayor says the city is expecting another vaccine shipment early next week.