COVID-19 vaccine: Study shows that Houston area minority communities lack access to vaccine

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Some of the neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest by COVID-19 in the Houston area now have the lowest reported vaccine rates.

“Even from the very beginning, 77088 was high with COVID-19,” said Susie Molina, whose parents live in the Acres Homes zip code.

For nearly 52 years, Lydia Rodriguez and her husband were inseparable. Then COVID-19 hit.

Lydia contracted the virus and died.

“We just have to be thankful that my dad’s okay,” said Susie. “We have heard so many stories that both family members died.”

Data proves that stories such as Susie’s are all too common.

Statistics on the number of vaccination rates by zip code from the Houston Health Department are startling.

In the map above, the orange areas, which largely comprise of zip codes in north, northeast, and southeast Houston, show just 1-4% penetration of vaccine rates.

Meanwhile, the areas colored in black, shaped loosely like an “arrow” that stretch from downtown to Memorial, have much higher vaccine rates.

The area near the Medical Center has an eye popping vaccination rate of 35%, while Bellaire and West University Place are hovering around 20%.

“I wish I could say I was surprised, but there’s so much clear evidence that health disparities exist among zip codes,” said pediatrician Dr. Joyee Vachani, who happens to live in Bellaire. “It’s such an access to health care issue, just depending on what geographic location you’re in.”

Within Bellaire, around 21% of residents are vaccinated. That area not only benefits from affluence, but also the large number of medical workers who live in the community that had early access to the vaccine.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo says data shows the early vaccine recipients were disproportionately white and Asian. She says some of that is due to first vaccinating medical personnel, but also says disparities are an ongoing concern.

“A percentage of the county’s vaccines are going to the community health centers that served only low income residents. Some are going to Harris Health clinics, who also serve low income neighborhoods,” said Hidalgo. “We’re working to build more sites throughout the county, so it’s easier for folks to go to sites.”

However, until vaccine supplies increase, dramatically, getting them into those communities will continue to be a challenge.

Track COVID-19 vaccine availability and progress across Houston

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