Houston leaders spread awareness about vaccine and COVID-19 testing

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee spread Christmas cheer while sharing a message to the community during Houston's 26th Annual Christmas Toys for Kids giveaway event on Saturday.

Lee said she flew from Houston to Washington D.C. just for Saturday's event and wanted to make sure children and families in need had gifts to put under the Christmas tree.

"Our first priority, of course, was to protect our children," Jackson Lee said. "COVID-19 has cost the life of over 300,000 Americans. We have lost thousands in Texas, and we have lost thousands here in Houston and Harris County. We wanted this to be joyful, but we wanted us to be safe, and the children to be safe. We didn't want to snatch on this holiday season."

The event was a drive-thru event and Houston's leaders Mayor Sylvester Turner, HPD Chief Art Acevedo, and HFD Chief Samuel Pena helped load up the toys for families waiting in line.

Pablo Vasquez, Nurse Manager of the Highly Infectious Unit at Houston Methodist Continuing Care Hospital, was one of the health care workers that received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday.

"We're not quite there," Vasquez said. "But it's the beginning of the end and that's what gives me hope."

He said he's seen an increase of COVID-19 patients being admitted to the local hospitals.

"I think this is a direct result of coming off of Thanksgiving holiday and folks probably maybe relaxing the social distancing norms that they've been used to or trying to make exceptions because it's family," Vasquez said. "But clearly, that is what we are seeing is the highest risk. You know, small group gatherings, small family gatherings where the infection is just spreading."

Vasquez, along with city and Harris County leaders, are pushing for people to get tested ahead of the holiday, to protect you and your family.
"One important thing to know is if you do get tested, you obviously need to be isolated or quarantine until those results come back," Vasquez said. "Knowing the type of test and making sure you are getting a test from a reputable source so that you can trust the result that you are getting."

The CDC Advisory Committee met on Saturday to discuss the distribution of the Moderna vaccine, which is the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in the U.S.

"It's great news because it increases our supply of vaccine," said Dr. Catherine Troisi an infectious disease epidemiologist at UTHealth School of Public Health. "The Moderna vaccine has the advantage that it can be stored at regular freezer temperatures, left in a refrigerator for 30 days, so it will really help in more rural areas that just didn't have the capacity for something that needed to be stored in -80C."

Healthcare workers and nursing homes are still a top priority right now for vaccinations and then eventually the general public will have access to the vaccine.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the Houston Health Department will receive a shipment of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines as part of the Texas Department of State Health Services' week two allocation.

"We've got notification that the state is providing 3,000 doses, to the City Of Houston to the Health Department," Mayor Turner said. "We'll follow the tier one protocols, which means that the health care workers, employees within Houston Health Department will of course be eligible for the vaccines and then after that we'll work with the hospitals and our senior living facilities like nursing homes, to make sure that they utilize what we're being given. I think this is the first distribution of many, many more to come."

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