City of Houston

Sylvester Turner Joins Big-City Mayors In Asking Biden For Direct Vaccine Shipments

The group of 36 mayors said getting direct shipments would lead to a more efficient public health response.

Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
Mayor Sylvester Turner at an Acres Homes polling place on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020.

Mayor Sylvester Turner joined a group of 36 big-city mayors across the U.S. calling on President-elect Joe Biden to provide direct shipments of COVID-19 vaccines, along with additional funding in order to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In the letter, the mayors say giving vaccines directly to cities and providing funding would mean vaccines could be administered more quickly and efficiently.

"Cities need direct access to vaccines, funding to support scaling the distribution infrastructure, and funding to support engagement, and funding to support engagement and outreach to disadvantaged communities that are ‘vaccine hesitant'," the mayors wrote.

In addition to Turner, the mayors of Austin, Dallas and San Antonio signed the letter, as well as the mayors of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and others.

Turner on Thursday cited distribution and accessibility concerns with the vaccine rollout, saying the city was trying to turn around appointments as quickly as possible.

"The goal is to get these vaccines out as soon as we get them," Turner said at an afternoon press conference. "The more we get, the more we can get out."

In particular, the mayors' letter expressed concern about distribution in Black and brown communities, arguing that cities able to more easily reach communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Black and Hispanic populations have been hardest hit by the coronavirus, according to public health data.

The Biden administration has a goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in its first 100 days.

But in the letter, the mayors expressed concern about whether or not that lofty goal could be accomplished.

"Very few cities are receiving direct allocations, and as a result the necessary outreach needed to lay the groundwork for your vaccination goals are not being met," the letter reads.

Many mayors have already taken matters into their own hands by establishing testing facilities as vaccine administration sites.

In Houston, the city has tried to focus on setting up "mega sites" to vaccinate as many people as possible, although the state's rollout has led to some confusion. Turner last week began a push for a site at Minute Maid Park, which did end up providing close to 4,000 doses of the vaccine.

The mayor has made public plans for two such sites in the city, but stressed that it is dependent on additional vaccine shipments from the state. As of Thursday, only the Minute Maid site was scheduled for operation over the weekend.

Ultimately, Turner said he hopes to open another mega site that would provide 6,000-8,000 vaccine doses.

The letter ended by calling on the Biden administration to implement a strategy that allows for the public to be vaccinated as quickly as possible, a message Turner echoed in a statement to Houston Public Media Thursday.

"Getting a direct and predictable supply of COVID-19 vaccines would allow for a faster and more localized administration of vaccinations," Turner said. "Cities are going to be in the best position to push out vaccines – especially needed in reaching diverse populations."

Additional reporting by Paul DeBenedetto.

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