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Houston vaccine allotments mostly to private providers leaves minority communities searching for doses

Father Jhon Flores-Gallo drove from his Pearland parish to north Houston on Monday morning just for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s very important for community health,” said Flores-Gallo of the Vicar for St. Luke The Evangelist Catholic Church.

He knows it’s important to set an example in the Hispanic community because communities of color have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most of the Hispanic and Black communities are in the frontlines and have been hit very hard,” said Dr. Adolfo Oldonez, the medical director for the Houston-area’s Mi-Doctor clinics, which primarily serve Hispanic patients.

The half-dozen Houston-area Mi-Doctor clinics received about 1,700 doses in total, which is not nearly enough to meet the demand.

“We have specific indications of not to waste a single dose,” said Oldonez, adding he can easily vaccinate hundreds of more people every day if he had the doses.

So, where are the vaccines?

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services distributed the vast majority of vaccines to private hospitals, pharmacies, and doctor’s offices.

ABC13 analyzed the state data, and as of Monday morning, here are the medical facilities receiving the biggest distributions of vaccines.

  • Memorial Hermann Hospital: 44,375
  • Methodist Hospital Systems: 23,525
  • City of Houston Health Department: 10,200
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center: 9,725
  • HCA Hospitals: 6,025
  • Texas Children’s Hospital: 5,950
  • Kelsey Seybold: 4,500
  • Ben Taub Hospital: 4,025
  • Houston-area H-E-B pharmacies: 3,700
  • Baylor Medical Center: 3,000

Other urgent care facilities and doctors’ offices are getting smaller shares. For example, each Kroger & H-E-B pharmacy only gets 100 doses per location.

The shortage of vaccines has left a scramble for the city of Houston’s single public vaccine location. Online bookings quickly filled up on Monday. It has also made it more difficult for communities of color to have equitable access to vaccines. Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Monday that there were not many Black or Hispanic Houstonians waiting in line at the city of Houston vaccine site.

“While many people are coming to get the vaccine, this is not the time for people of color to be staying away from the vaccine,” said Turner during an event where he and other community leaders got vaccinated.

The city of Houston says it will open up a “mega” vaccination center by this weekend.

In the meantime, make sure your loved ones are signed up with their doctors’ and pharmacy offices because there is no central clearinghouse or phone number for everyone to call. You must contact individual doctors and hospitals for available vaccine slots.

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