Minute Maid Park was very lively on Saturday. Residents waited in line to push older relatives in wheelchairs into the stadium. But the main attraction is not baseball, but the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I hope this will not cause too much harm,” Stan Shniderson, 83, told Mayor Sylvester Turner before receiving the vaccination.
“Oh, it doesn’t hurt at all!” Assured Turner, he received the vaccine last week.
The city cooperated with the Astros organization to turn the stadium into a venue that can provide Moderna vaccines for up to 3,600 medical staff, residents 65 years of age and older, and patients with underlying diseases. The distribution of the vaccine was transferred from the Pufferfish City Event Center, which is needed for another game, which allows the city to see how the stadium will operate as a large venue when it officially opens next week.
The stadium is divided into three parts, and the lower floor is reserved for the elderly and people with reduced mobility. Volunteers first lead participants to an area to complete other paperwork for the vaccine, then arrive at the waiting area and official vaccination station, and finally the observation area, where health workers must observe any adverse or allergic reactions for at least 1
According to many vaccinators, the process is very simple, almost painless, and a hopeful move towards normalization.
Rod Miller said: “It’s like a flu vaccine.” He pointed out that he had a physical illness and called himself middle-aged. “This is what you have to do. This is not only a civic duty. This is to protect family and friends-this is a responsible thing.”
Gwendolyn McAfee, a 22-year-old graduate of Prairie View A&M University, said she was uneasy about the injection needle and was uncertain about the vaccine’s effectiveness. However, when McAfee sat in the observation area unscathed, he expressed that he was very happy to have completed the work.
“Many people my age don’t like this vaccine… but I think I can be a role model for my peers, especially in the age of social media. This is the best way to ensure safety.” McAfee said.
Shniderson’s wife died in July. He said it would be difficult to stay at home alone during the pandemic. This vaccine may provide some safety when he tries to gather safely with a few friends and run errands as COVID lingers.
Nonetheless, “there are a lot of’ifs’ and’buts’ related to this. I don’t know if it will work,” Schneiderson said. He was born during the polio epidemic in Texas in the early 1950s, but he was hopeful.
Turner visited the area, greeted residents with fists and elbows, and encouraged volunteers and key staff. Turner said the Maid Park is the largest vaccination site held in the city to date-350 people were vaccinated every hour, which tripled the total number of people who were vaccinated at the Bayou City Event Center last Saturday.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee attended the press conference held at the baseball stadium in the afternoon. He said that this is also the country’s first model of a super large stadium, which can serve as an important tool for other major players who wish to build similar stadiums. The city provides examples.
However, the results exceeded the initial expectations of Turner and health officials.
Turner said that as of Thursday, the city had received about 1,000 doses of vaccines and decided to reduce vaccinations on weekends when there were no deliveries. But by Friday morning, the city unexpectedly received another 2,600 vaccines. Turner said. The City of Houston and the Houston Department of Health quickly changed gears and arranged appointments with people who had been pre-registered to ensure that the vaccine was distributed instead of sitting there and wasting on the shelf. Turner said they also opened up registration and received another 1,000 applicants within 20 minutes.
Astronaut senior vice president of commercial operations Marcel Braithwaite (Marcel Braithwaite) said that the stadium has already begun construction earlier this week, and officials have full confidence in the infrastructure.
Braithwaite said: “It’s more about the logistics process” and ensure that there is enough physical space in the building for social evacuation in the waiting area and immune pods.
Due to the early delivery, Lesley Fox, 56, Harris County, said that the vaccination date originally scheduled for late January has been scheduled for Saturday morning. Wearing a Butch mask, Fox said that the organization of the process and the joy of many volunteers and important workers in the stadium that day impressed her.
Fox said: “I think it will be a mess.” Fox is a volunteer for Houston Livestock and Rodeo and works for United Airlines. She said that she longed to return to a normal life.
“I want to see my mother. I stand in front of people and I don’t want to stop this.” Fox said. “I want to go back to normal. If this helps you, then so be it.”
Despite the success at the scene on Saturday, Turner said he and city health officials were not satisfied with the level of vaccine distribution.
He said: “We hope things will develop quickly.” He added that “the certainty of when the vaccine will arrive and how many vaccines will be injected” will help the city better meet demand.
Stephen L. Williams, director of the Houston Health Department, added that the city plans to operate at least two large vaccination sites-one on the north side of Houston and the other on the south side of Houston. The city will also create a mobile site that will distribute vaccinations to urban communities and work with health centers and pharmacies to ensure coverage throughout the city. Williams added that the number of people vaccinated will depend on the number of vaccines delivered, and part of the next round of vaccines will be given priority to nursing homes.
Williams said: “As time goes on and the vaccine becomes more popular, it will become more reliable.”
Although the distribution of vaccines is increasing, Williams and Turner advise residents to be vigilant about wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and hygiene.
“We are still fighting the virus. There is still a lot of community transmission,” Turner said. “And I want to emphasize the importance of testing, testing, testing.”