Top Houston-area doctor gets blunt about slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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Thursday, December 31, 2020
What's in store for 2021? Health experts say year looks promising
What should Americans expect in 2021? According to Dr. Petez Hotez, who's been at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19, said "life is going to look much better." However, there are still plenty of obstacles to get through. Hit play to hear his take on what the New Year will bring.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- One of the Houston-area's most trusted medical professionals is slamming the COVID-19 vaccine rollout thus far in Texas and the response to the pandemic nationwide.

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Dr. Peter Hotez, the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, directly wrote about an apparent hold up in getting the vaccines to their designated places.

"Texas hospitals have received over 600,000 doses yet only about 100,000 vaccinated so far? These aren't bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon. We don't need (aged) vaccines, are we overthinking this? Texas 1b lots of adults with underlying conditions, vaccinate them," Hotez said in the first tweet of his thread.

The "Texas 1b" Hotez is referring to is vaccination Group 1B, whom the state has identified as the group eligible now to get the vaccine.

Group 1B includes people who are 65 and older, and people who are 16 and older with chronic medical conditions that include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD
  • Heart conditions
  • Organ transplantation
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus

The doctor continued, "There's no reason to hang on to vaccine stocks (except for second doses), just move them out and get people vaccinated ASAP. More vaccine is coming."

Hotez then laid out what has gone wrong in the COVID-19 pandemic response.

"Maybe I'm too subtle. So here it goes: 1. In 2020 we royally messed up COVID19 control, failing to launch a US strategy causing 350,000 deaths 2. By failing, we backed ourselves into a corner 3. Our last hope is to now vaccinate our way out of this. 4. Ignore antivax conspiracies," he wrote.

"Remember we have vaccines released through EUA (emergency use authorization) earlier than expected for a reason: WH went to sleep and allowed this epidemic to rip through the nation. As a result we got to 200,000 confirmed new cases a day, which means 1 million new real cases. We got efficacy signals fast," Hotez finished.

Many are hoping we can soon close the chapter on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, Hotez was the among the medical professionals who spoke to ABC13, saying the vaccine brings hope. But as of Monday, positive cases are still rising.

The city of Houston received its first delivery of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. Dr. David Persse, the city's health authority, said though he isn't eligible for a vaccination yet, he plans on getting it "as soon as he can."

READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccine confusion on who is next as Texas starts next phase

He urged those who qualify to get the vaccine to take advantage of that and get vaccinated when they are contacted about it.

"This is the beginning of the end. We still have a lot of work to do," Persse said. "I would like to encourage everyone who is eligible to get COVID-19 to get vaccinated. This is going to help you personally because it's going to protect you."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 million Americans have been infected with coronavirus this year.

SEE ALSO: Despite vaccine, health experts warn of COVID-19 surge

"This is one of the worst parts of the worst epidemic the U.S. has seen in years," said Hotez.

But much like Persse, Hotez believes the COVID-19 vaccine brings a sense of hope.

While he said the national vaccination program is complicated and won't come without problems, he too is optimistic that in terms of the health crisis, the spring of 2021 will be much different.

"It's hard to imagine it could get much worse, that is the hope, and I think there is some truth to that," Hotez explained. "I think February will be better than January, March will be better than February, I think April will be better than March. With each passing month, you'll see a gradual improvement in the quality of life in this country, but it's not an 'on' or 'off' switch. It will be gradual and people will have to be patient until we get everybody vaccinated."

So what will 2021 look like? Hotez believes the new year looks promising, but it may come with some obstacles.

"I think this time next year, if we have a significant percentage of the population (vaccinated) as projected, I think we'll be in a much, much better situation," he said. "I think people will be going back to work on a regular basis. Whether or not we'll still need masks or some level of social distancing, that's not impossible. But I think a year from now, life is going to look much better across the country, assuming of course, there's no new escape variance that emerge because of the virus mutation. I think that's pretty unlikely."

The Texas Department of State Health Services shared an online map that you can use to find and call a vaccine provider if you're 65 or older or have medical conditions that increase your risk of severe COVID-19.

It depends on local availability, but you would need to follow these steps:

  • Call and see if they have a vaccine available for you
  • Follow the provider's instruction for vaccination

Watch live newscasts and in-depth reporting from ABC13 on your favorite streaming devices, like Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and AndroidTV. Just search "ABC13 Houston."

The video above is from a previous interview Dr. Hotez on the 2021 COVID-19 outlook.