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Officials request FEMA COVID-19 vaccination site remain open through May



HOUSTON, TX — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday sent a letter to FEMA requesting its vaccination site at NRG Park remain open through at least May 31.

With the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expanding on March 29 to all adults in Texas, Hidalgo said, “we need the supplies to make herd immunity a reality.”

“We’ve asked FEMA to keep our largest vaccination site here until the job is done,” Hidalgo tweeted. “Day after day we’re hitting our numbers with that site. Let us keep going!”

In the letter, Hidalgo and Turner said the site has distributed 6,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine daily, seven days a week, since late February. The letter notes as of March 22, 12.1% of the Harris County population age 16 and older have been fully vaccinated.

“We respectfully ask for your continued support of the NRG Park (Community Vaccination Center) to help Harris County residents quickly and equitably access COVID-19 vaccines, even as the state reopens and lifts mask requirements,” the letter states.

Mayor Turner said the FEMA vaccination site is imperative to the city and county’s goal of vaccinating residents.

“We appreciate that site being set up by FEMA,” Mayor Turner said. “6,000 per day, per week, that’s major…but we need even more – more mobile sites, more fixed sites…so we don’t need to lose this FEMA site at NRG.”

Currently, Texas ranks 45 out of the 50 states for residents fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Only 11 percent of Texans have been fully vaccinated thus far. Vaccinations took a significant hit when the winter storm rolled in. Texas bounced back for three straight weeks, but data show it again slowed over Spring Break. Texas’ size, rural population and hard-to-reach low-income communities have all played a factor in the vaccine lag, as well as a growing anti-science movement fueling vaccine hesitancy.

However, some parts of Texas are doing better than others. Fort Bend and Galveston counties are overperforming Texas with nearly 20 percent of their populations fully vaccinated.

Mayor Turner said his goal is to get as many Houstonians vaccinated as possible by this summer.

“The goal now is as we move toward the summer, we get as many people vaccinated as possible (and) be back as much to normal by July 1,” he said. “But in order to have that happen, we need to ramp up and vaccinate as many people as possible in Houston and Harris County.”