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'We meet people where they are' | Houston using pop-up COVID-19 vaccination sites as Delta variant surges

Houston and Harris County health departments are both using mobile vaccination sites to boost access to the shots.

HOUSTON — Texas reported more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and 59 new deaths as cases surge. A day earlier, the state reported a little over 6,000 cases.

The CDC says new cases nationwide are averaging more than 57,000 per day.

Houston and Harris County health departments are both using mobile vaccination sites to boost access to the shots.

“We meet people where they are, in those shopping centers, those supermarkets,” said Porfirio Villarreal, a Houston Health Department spokesperson.

The city’s transitioning from massive vaccination sites to 10 to 12 different pop-up sites that rotate each week through disadvantaged ZIP codes with low vaccination rates.

“In those neighborhoods, there is problems with transportation, problems with isolation, linguistic isolation,” Villarreal said. “Also there may be a lot of pre-existing conditions among those ZIP codes.”

Villarreal said HHD saw an uptick in COVID vaccination traffic the prior week as news of the Delta variant made headlines. The department gave vaccines to 640 people that week, compared to the usual 400 to 500.

The Food Town grocery store on Antoine Drive in northwest Houston is one of 10 pop-up vaccine sites set up by HHD for the current week.

“Some of our folks have to walk to work, walk to the store, walk to where they’re going,” said Albert Ovalle, assistant store manager. “It’s been a really great, great venture for us and for those folks that needed the help.”

Moses Gresham got his second Pfizer shot there Wednesday.

“I don’t want to come down sick with this stuff, and I want to use every precaution,” Gresham said.

The shots are free to anyone 12 and older.

Besides access, another challenge is vaccine hesitancy. Many doctors and elected officials blame misinformation.

"Please help us,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) during an event Saturday. “Please help us monitor lies in social media. Please help us on your platform to monitor lies because people are dying."

Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) said Wednesday he’s “pro-vaccine and anti-mandate.”

“Just keep putting out the science and the studies and the stats that show, look, 99 percent, well over 99 percent of people who are in the hospital right now are unvaccinated,” Rep. Crenshaw said. “Just tell people that. Do it kindly.”

Baylor College of Medicine is the latest establishment to require faculty and staff be vaccinated by Sept. 15.

The White House is expected to announce Thursday a requirement that all federal employees show proof they’ve been vaccinated or submit to regular testing.

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