HOUSTON — If the COVID-19 vaccine rollout was a marathon, the state of Texas has only crossed mile marker 2, and that is only for the initial stage of the campaign.
For phase 1A and 1B, which includes frontline healthcare workers, people over 65 and adults with chronic medical conditions, only 10% of eligible Texans have received the first dose. That’s according to a KHOU 11 Investigates analysis of Texas Department of State Health Services data current of Tuesday afternoon.
Kelly Saldivar has tried and tried to get a shot without success.
“Everywhere you turn, everyone’s out,” she said. “It’s just so flippin’ hard to find anywhere that has it.”
Saldivar, 54, said she was diagnosed with leukemia last year and her doctor told her she’s eligible for the vaccine. But in rural Montgomery County, where Saldivar lives, and neighboring Waller County, she’s had no luck in securing an appointment.
“It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating as hell actually,” Saldivar said.
In the Greater Houston area, only Galveston and Fort Bend counties have vaccinated more Phase 1A and 1B eligible residents than the state average, with 14% and 13%, respectively. Brazoria, Austin, Jackson and Harris counties equal the 10% statewide average, and 14 Houston-area counties fall below it – Calhoun and Chambers at 9% each; Colorado and Montgomery with 7%; Trinity and Washington at 6%; Liberty, Polk, San Jacinto and Walker with 5%; and Matagorda, Waller and Wharton with 4%.
In the City of Cleveland, two hospitals have not been able to vaccinate Liberty County residents or their own staff.
“We have not been able to give our frontline workers the vaccines that have been needed,” said Patti Foster, chief operations officer of Emergency Hospital Systems, which operates Texas Emergency Hospitals.
Foster estimates that 60% of their hospital beds are filled with COVID-positive patients.
“Every single frontline staff that we have is having to deal with COVID patients at some point,” Chief Nursing Officer Cassie Kavanaugh said. “And that is a hard reality to face.”
That may soon change. Foster said DSHS has approved Texas Emergency Hospital as a Liberty County vaccine hub. The facility expects to receive its first shipment of vaccine Thursday and begin giving shots to those in phase 1A and 1B Friday.
But the first allotment is only 975 doses.
“What we’re getting is not going to be what we need for our communities and surrounding communities,” Foster said. “It’s not going to be enough.”