HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus continues to impact the holidays, but light could be at the end of the tunnel.
The only wrapping that took place at Houston Community College's southeast campus on Christmas Eve was the line of cars wrapped around the block. It was a familiar sight all week around Houston.
People said they waited hours to get a COVID-19 test before the holidays.
"I went to six places trying to get tested," Herbert Grant, a Houston resident said. "The last place I went to was an urgent care in River Oaks, and it was a three and a half hour wait."
That wasn't the only holiday inconvenience for Grant. With rising COVID cases, he decided to stay home.
"Since we chose not to get our daughter vaccinated, we're not going to go around the rest of the family," Grant said. "Some of them didn't feel comfortable about it."
With 2022 approaching, some said they hope next Christmas will be different.
Two tools will be more readily available to Americans starting in January. The U.S. government is handing out free at-home COVID-19 tests.
A new game changer is also set to arrive next month in the form of a pill. On Wednesday, U.S. health regulators authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.
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"This is very good news," said Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann. "These are the first oral antivirals that we have."
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UTMB research also shows the vaccines work against omicron. While breakthrough cases can occur, the boosters are making a difference.
"The data clearly shows, after the booster, your antibody levels against omicron is equivalent to the two doses of the regular vaccine," said Dr. Pei-Yong Shi, a professor at UTMB professor.
Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine said the key to ending the pandemic is vaccinating the globe. He said that it is possible the virus may not be something we have to live with.
"There are viruses that come and go and don't return for a period of years as well," Hotez said.
Federal leaders said they also plan to make it easier to get a vaccine starting next month.
"I think if everyone gets vaccinated, I do see a light at the end of the tunnel," said Grant.
A spokesperson for Memorial Hermann said they expect to receive the COVID-19 pill next month. People will not be able to find these at a drug store. Instead, it will be a prescription from a doctor. People will be able to request at-home COVID kits through a website. Those kits will be distributed starting in January.
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Doctors say they are hopeful 2022 will be different with new tools against COVID-19
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