Why did this swanky Houston skyscraper get vaccines forward of most individuals?

Photo illustration from The Daily Beast / Getty

The Montebello Condominium Complex in downtown Houston is considered one of the “best high-rise luxury skyscrapers” in town with amenities like valet parking, concierge service and a pool. A new benefit was recently added: COVID-19 vaccines for elderly residents.

While health workers and seniors across the country are struggling to get their hands on a COVID-19 vaccine in the first wave of vaccinations, the Montebello appears to have figured it out.

About 60 residents of the upscale condominium complex have been vaccinated, the building’s general manager told The Daily Beast on Thursday – despite not being on Texas’s public vaccine distribution list.

“The state of Texas approved it,” said Daniel Hancock, general manager of Montebello. “We’re working with a dealer … it’s a blessing we got it.”

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Hancock declined to give The Daily Beast the name of the distributor, but said the building was eligible to receive the footage due to its high elderly population.

The Texas Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment on the agreement.

When asked about reports that Montebello vaccinated its residents against COVID-19, a Houston city health department spokesman said he was unaware.

“All dealers have to register through the state health department,” said the spokesman Porfirio Villareal. “The apartment complex is not an approved provider. If a site is not approved, is not on the list and has received the vaccine, we recommend not visiting that site. “

The Montebello is not on the state’s list of vaccine recipients, which only lists hospitals, pharmacies, local health departments, and clinics, or is on the state map of vaccine providers’ locations.

David Fink, 68, was a Montebello resident who received the vaccination. He had got his flu shots through the building and was happy to hear that given his age, he was eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine.

The story goes on

“It was all overboard,” he told The Daily Beast.

Both Fink and Hancock said they heard of other residential buildings in the Houston area that had received the vaccine.

“We weren’t the first,” said Hancock. “It’s not just the skyscrapers.”

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Nationwide, the rollout of the two FDA-cleared COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna didn’t go as smoothly as it did at the Montebello.

Texas was allocated 1.2 million doses in the first three weeks, but on Tuesday Governor Greg Abbott said that “a significant portion of the vaccines distributed across Texas could sit on hospital shelves instead of being given to vulnerable Texans.”

“The state urges vaccine providers to quickly take all pictures. We’re getting a lot more every week, ”he wrote on Twitter.

Later on Tuesday, the state announced that vaccinations could begin immediately for people over 65. The move contradicts the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend the use of vaccines only for healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

However, the final decision on who will be vaccinated and when is in the hands of individual states. And as the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday, many traders have already reached their allotment, so most senior Texans are struggling to find a place where they can get their chance.

“Unfortunately, the truth is that the vaccine is NOT currently available to the vast majority of Texans 65 and over,” Gina Hinojosa, a Democratic State representative from Austin, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

A former state official, Jason Villalba, found this out firsthand. “I have parents over 65, one comorbid and lost my grandfather to COVID,” he tweeted. “We called all locations in our area [state health department] Chart and everyone said they don’t have vaccines. “

Tony Dasher, a professor in the Feik School of Pharmacology at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, said he had “no problem” with the vaccine being distributed to areas with higher concentrations of elderly residents like Montebello, even if you are no traditional nursing homes.

“There are several communities that cater to retirees and there can be a large group of people over 65,” Dasher told The Daily Beast. “It makes a lot more sense when you have the vaccine and can get it to you than having them all in a grocery store or pharmacy and waiting for people to take you there.”

Nationwide, the introduction of the vaccine has been slow and confusing.

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In El Paso, city officials this week had to explain how some people who did not meet the qualification criteria could be vaccinated in a zoo, while in New York a health care provider was caught who was allegedly “fraudulently” receiving vaccines against non-essential patients.

Even hospitals botched the exam: over 100 nurses and doctors protested at Stanford University’s medical center after an algorithm found hospital managers would be vaccinated first.

According to Bloomberg News’ vaccination tracker, just over 3 million doses of the vaccine had been administered by the end of 2020, which fell dramatically below expectations as a lack of federal guidelines and distribution opportunities has led to fears that vaccines may be phased out.

“I think people will have high expectations for the availability of the vaccine, like ‘It has been delivered, why can’t I get it yet?'” Dasher said. “But that won’t be the case for a while.”

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