On Monday, the Houston Department of Health launched an online portal for residents to request an appointment at its COVID-19 vaccination clinic, but it quickly ran out of slots available for the rest of the month.
“The response to Houston’s first COVID-19 vaccination clinic has been massive, quickly filling the appointment slots for the department’s current vaccine allocation,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference at the town hall where he was about to be vaccinated.
“The appointments at the vaccination clinic are reserved for the rest of the month and the department is not making any additional appointments at this time.”
Turner said the city is working on setting up additional venues and building additional capacity, although it is not known when new appointments will be available. Turner said the city was hoping to open a “mega site” on Saturday.
The portal, available at houstonemergency.org/covid-19-vaccines, added another way for eligible residents to make an appointment. A hotline is also available at 832-393-4220.
The city clinic vaccinated nearly 2,000 residents with the Moderna vaccine in two days. It accepts residents of the first two phases of the state’s distribution plan, which includes frontline emergency workers, people 65 and over, and those over 16 with certain high-risk health conditions. .
These conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, solid organ transplantation, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Turner said he spent a lot of time in the clinic over the weekend and was concerned about the lack of people of color there. The mayor said he and other city leaders were getting their shots in public in an effort to allay residents’ concerns about the process.
“The point is, for people of color in this diverse community, this is not Project Tuskegee,” Turner said, referring to an unethical 40-year study in which several hundred black men infected with syphilis were misled by government researchers and left untreated for the disease. “We recognize people’s hesitation, people’s fear, but a lot of people come to be vaccinated. Now is not the time for people of color to stay away from the vaccine. “
Police Chief Art Acevedo, Fire Chief Sam Peña and council members Letitia Plummer and Michael Kubosh were among those who also received the vaccine at town hall on Monday.
Demand for the vaccine overwhelmed the city’s call center when the clinic opened on Saturday, forcing officials to use on-site registration instead.
Harris County Public Health shut down its portal on Friday evening, after the ministry mistakenly allowed residents who were not eligible to register. The agency said it would conduct an on-site check to ensure the vaccine will only be distributed to those authorized to receive it.
Martha Marquez, a spokesperson for the department, said she was waiting for further vaccine shipments before starting to accept new applications.
Hospitals and other providers in the Houston area have also started immunizing the elderly and some people with high-risk illnesses. The state maintains a database of vaccine suppliers on its website and recommends that residents call their suppliers for more information on availability.