HOUSTON — The COVID-19 vaccine has been hard to come by as the companies manufacturing the vaccine work to ramp up production to meet demand.
In the meantime, local and federal leaders are making sure communities hit hardest by the virus get a fair chance at getting the shot.
Hispanic and African American communities have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19. Those communities largely make up Houston’s East End, but when you look at vaccination locations in those areas, you’ll find, there’s hardly any.
“Initially, the distribution was to major hospitals that had the ultra-cold storage," Houston Health Department Director Stephen Williams said.
Williams said the reason is that the vaccine was first reserved for health care workers and the places to best distribute to them are hospitals.
But as we move into Phase 1B, which provides the vaccine for those over 65 and those with chronic medical conditions, he said more sites will come online.
“Actually the 1B population hasn’t been formally opened up yet. When it does, what you’re going to see is a host of providers in these neighborhoods," Williams said.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said the system in place only sends the vaccine to standing clinics and pharmacies, and those will not proportionately reach all communities.
“There are vast areas where clinics don’t exist," Lee said.
This is why it’s her hope to have the federal government take over the distribution operation.
“We’ve got to scrap this whole process. This has to be a federal process," Lee said.
She’s submitting a proposal to have FEMA control the management of vaccine distribution, similar to their earlier efforts to find and supply PPE.
She said she hopes vaccinations can happen, not just in clinics, but also at temporary mega-sites that can reach every community.
“Elderly Hispanic seniors, elderly African-American seniors, coming out of neighborhoods, there's already an economic challenge, there's already a knowledge challenge, you’ve got to go to them," Lee said.
To view the map of current vaccination locations, click here.