By Judge Lina Hidalgo
Last week, I followed my own advice and got vaccinated! I want to thank every frontline health worker and Harris County Public Health employee who has been working to save lives for the past year. Now more than ever we have reason to be hopeful and proud of the work we’re doing together to beat the coronavirus. More than 1 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Harris County. Over 750,000 people have signed up for our waitlist and our call center has fielded more than half a million calls and registered over 27,000 people by phone. Our Health Department is vaccinating a larger proportion of vulnerable groups compared to others. This is what progress looks like.
But as County Judge it’s my job to look beyond the immediate challenges of limited supply of vaccines and toward our next obstacle. If you look around the corner you’ll see evidence that there is a very large proportion of our community that remains wary of getting vaccinated. One national survey shows that up to 40% of Texans say they will either not get a COVID-19 vaccine or are undecided on whether or not to do so. So here’s the bottom line — Harris County will never reach herd immunity if up to 40% of our residents refuse to get vaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy is a clear and present danger to our collective health and our ability to pull through this crisis. We need to do more than just offer vaccines and hope folks will show up to receive it.
That’s why we launched the Stay Smart, Do Your Part media campaign to reach folks where they are through ads and by going door-to-door in the hardest-hit neighborhoods. It’s why we’ve built a registration process that builds equity by prioritizing vulnerable communities and targeting high risk zip codes. We’ve provided vaccines at over 77 locations across our County, including communities of faith, homeless shelters, and assisted living facilities. We are providing transportation support for those who need it. But we need everyone to do more. Clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies must make sure they’re doing outreach in underserved communities. Vaccine providers must make registration easier for elderly folks and working families and drop any ID requirements that may discourage undocumented or uninsured residents from getting a vaccine. As for our residents, the gates are now open for everyone 16 and over. If you can drive a car, you can and should get a vaccine. Please visit ReadyHarris.org or call 832-927-8787 to sign up for our waitlist now. If you already received your vaccine, help us spread the word to your network and community!
This is on all of us — the sooner we are vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to doing the things we love. We’ve waited so long for this pandemic to end so that we can return to normal. The remedy is here, we just have to take it.
Go get vaccinated!