Thursday, 21 January 2021 16:22

Weighing the risks, COH employees get COVID-19 vaccines

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For Melody Wolf, the decision was easy. When the Houston Health Department officials announced that Houston area providers were set to receive about 56,000 vaccine doses developed to fight the COVID-19 virus, she knew she would be among the first in line.

“My Mother in law is 80-years-old with serious medical complications. I choose to get the vaccine to not only protect myself and my immediate family, but also her. After much thought, I figured it is better to get coverage than to take a chance of getting COVID,” she said.

Stephanie Humbert was also vaccinated, saying getting it was never a question in her mind. “I believe in science and research; it’s how everything comes about,” she said.

Both Wolf and Humbert are considered members of the “critical population” group of city employees that received the first vaccinations. This group includes health care workers, other essential workers, and people more likely to develop severe disease, like older adults and persons with underlying health conditions. 

The Houston Health Department received the vaccines doses developed in December. COH employees began getting the first round of the Moderna vaccine in late December and will receive their second round 28 days later.

The vaccines however will not be widely available to the general public (including a majority of City of Houston employees) until late spring 2021, HHD Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer Scott Packard said.

HHD Senior Communications Specialist Morgan Ash said even with the availability of a vaccine, people will need to continue taking precautions such as masking up, practicing social distancing, and washing their hands to help contain the spread of the virus.

Packard also said 1.4 million doses is the anticipated tier one vaccine allotment from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to Texas that will be distributed by the Texas Department of State Health Services to regions of the state.

According to DSHS, the first phase of vaccine distribution will protect health care workers who are responsible for keeping our health care system operational. This phase is divided into two tiers. The first tier includes the following:

  • Hospital staff working directly with patients who are positive or at high risk for COVID-19,
  • Long-term care staff working directly with vulnerable residents. (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and state supported living centers),
  • EMS providers who engage in 9-1-1 emergency services like pre-hospital care and transport, and
  • Home health care workers, including hospice care, who directly interface with vulnerable and high-risk.

Health care workers in the second tier will receive the vaccine next. 

Humbert, a chief nurse and supervisor for the City of Houston Sunnyside Nurse Family Partnership, said she received her vaccination December 28 and while she now said she physically feels great, she did experience some side-affects.

“Immediately after the administration of the vaccine, I felt a slight pain in my neck and arm, but it quickly subsided,” she said. “For a couple of days after, I had some injection site tenderness that has also subsided.”

Wolf, a senior Public Health Dentist currently working on the HHD Mobile Testing Team, said she did not feel any side effects after receiving her first shot, but admitted she was concerned about them.

Both she and Humbert said they did not take the decision to take the vaccine lightly. “It came down to weighing the potential side effects from long term COVID-19 side effects vs potential side effects of an unknown vaccine,” Wolf said. 

Humbert said she considers receiving the vaccine as an essential worker to be a privilege, adding she has thought about the many lives that had been impacted by the deadly virus and the courage of those who chose to receive the vaccine and waited for hours in line to ensure that they got it as the impetus for her to get her vaccination.

“I will never be able to put into words the immense impact this had on me; how surreal it is to walk around and see everyone wearing a mask at all times, the gratitude for any opportunity to have a face to face interaction, the pain that friends, family members and our clients feel on a daily basis was palpable and it guides me in every single thing I do,” she said.

“So, this is for me, my family and for all of them, the families who have suffered, have been the victim of some terrible scenarios and whose lives can never return to normal, even if ours might be able to. I thought about lives lost, who matter so much, and who's courage and gratitude we will always remember.”

Wolf also said she wants to encourage COH employees to get the shot.

“If you are seeing patients, please consider getting the vaccine,” she said. “You don’t know what's the status of the patient, and it is easy to transmit. We should be treating all people we meet as if they were positive.”

Information about COVID-19 vaccines, including safety and efficacy, is available online on the COVID-19 Vaccine page of