By STEFAN MODRICH
When will Fort Bend County residents have access to a COVID-19 vaccine, which residents will be eligible to get the vaccine first, and where can they get it?
County officials addressed these questions during a Monday news conference and admitted that, because of the fluidity of the situation amid the pandemic, they were still awaiting many of the same answers from state and federal officials that the general public seeks.
Later Monday, County Judge KP George wrote in a tweet that the county had received a shipment of 1,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses.
“We are now working around the clock to begin the process of administering all doses, (without) delay,” George tweeted. “Over 5,000 people have pre-registered. Please be patient with us as we contact you to set up appointments.”
The county is an authorized provider of the vaccine under the distribution plan by Texas’ Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), George said, but was not listed as a Week 1, Week 2 or Week 3 vaccine recipient on the TDSHS website.
Dr. Jacqueline Minter, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Department (HHSD), said Monday the county has entered Phase 1 — split into Phase 1A, which Minter said is limited to frontline healthcare workers and those who are residents of long-term care facilities, and Phase 1B, which is designated for those who are 65 and older and those who are 16 and older with at least one chronic medical condition such as cancer or diabetes.
“If you are in those groups, we are asking you to roll up your sleeve and participate in this response that will allow us to safely congregate, the way we desire, without risking the health and safety of ourselves and our neighbors,” Minter said.
The vaccine doses administered to healthcare workers and high-risk patients in hospitals within Fort Bend County should not be confused with that of the county’s planned vaccination sites, Minter and George said.
During the last two weeks of the state’s vaccine allocation, county hospitals and pharmacies received 10,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine, with 1,500 of those being distributed most recently to Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, St. Luke’s Sugar Land, Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital, and Sugar Land Rehab Hospital.
According to TDSHS, 8,913 people have been vaccinated in Fort Bend County with at least one dose. The estimated population of frontline healthcare workers and those considered most vulnerable based on their age, residence in a long-term care facility or other health conditions is 38,228 people.
A map of COVID-19 vaccine providers is available here.
George likened the early stages of the vaccination distribution to hiccups experienced in March and April that resulted in testing shortages. He said he had hoped to receive thousands of doses in the first shipment.
George announced the Fort Bend County Health and Human Services Department (HHSD) had launched a website where residents can preregister for a vaccination appointment when it becomes available to them based on the TDSHS guidelines for priority vaccine eligibility here.
Minter asked those who are not included in the prioritization list for the first phase of vaccinations to be patient, adding “your time will come, and we hope that you will answer the call to be vaccinated as well.”
As of Monday, George said there were between 8,500 and 8,600 active COVID-19 cases in Fort Bend County. He also urged residents to go to fbchealth.org for updates on testing and vaccine progress.
“The virus did not respect our COVID fatigue or our desire to gather together,” Minter said. “As a result, some of us are beginning this new year with one or more less of the people that we love.”