People across Houston lined up to get vaccinated Monday as Texas became the largest state in the U.S. to open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to every adult.
All Texans 16 years and older now qualify for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, with people 18 and older qualifying for both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Up until Monday, the vaccine was only available to people over 50, people under 50 with underlying health conditions, health care workers, first responders, school employees and child care workers.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has directed vaccine providers to prioritize people 80 years and older, allowing them to skip the line even without an appointment.
Harris County has administered more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses since vaccinations began late last year. The city has administers more than 850,000 doses.
The city opened up 5,000 vaccination appointments Sunday morning for this coming week, which were claimed in about an hour.
At Booker T. Washington High School on Monday, in the historically Black neighborhood of Independence Heights, United Memorial Medical Center hosted a vaccination outreach site that did not require preregistration.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, applauded the efforts so far at large vaccination sites like the one at NRG Park, but said more still needed to be done to help everyone.
“Let’s have the big sites,” she said. “But let’s work together to get in the nooks and crannies of our community. I want there to be a wave of vaccinations. I want them to say, ‘what’s going on in Texas?’”
Both the city and county have stressed the importance of reaching underserved populations, and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Friday pushed private providers to reach out to those communities, calling it “a moral responsibility.”
Winford Houston was one of the people waiting to get vaccinated at the school. Houston, who is from Independence Heights, said he waited in line for more than 45 minutes. He said getting vaccinated was important, and that he trusted the research on vaccine safety.
“I don’t know too many people who’ve died from having the vaccination, but I know people who have died from not having the vaccination,” Houston said. “So that’s why I took the precautions to come over here and get on this line.”
Asked whether he was excited to get the vaccine, Houston said: “Living is exciting, so yeah.”