Appointments filling up quickly at Houston’s free COVID-19 vaccination clinic

HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department opened the city’s first public COVID-19 vaccination site.

Over 1,000 people received their first dose of the vaccine Saturday, according to city officials. The following day, the appointments were fully booked.

“We are working efficiently to vaccinate eligible frontline employees and vulnerable Houstonians,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “The virus has taken a toll, especially among the elderly and black and brown communities. The vaccine is our best shot to help prevent people from getting sick and potentially suffering severe consequences.”

In a release Saturday morning, the Houston Health Department said the public’s response was overwhelming. The COVID-19 call center was inundated by those seeking to schedule vaccination appointments.

The call center, which handles COVID-19 vaccination scheduling, COVID-19 test scheduling and also releases COVID-19 test results, experiences technical issues due to the high call volume. By Saturday afternoon, the the call center’s technical issues had been resolved and the call center had reopened.

The goal in January is to provide 100,000 vaccines to residents.

“We have to get there,” said Turner, who announced he will receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

Vaccination appointments Sunday filled fast. All 750 appointment slots had been reserved by 7:20 a.m.

“We’ll provide an update on future vaccination opportunities soon,” the Houston Heath Department tweeted. “If you do not already have an appointment, please do not show up to the location.”

Turner provided an update on the COVID-19 vaccination clinic during a news briefing Sunday afternoon.

“This is the first clinic that has been opened by the city of Houston.,” Turner said. “And quite frankly, is this the first of this scale, almost anywhere in the United States.”

Officials project the vaccine clinic will administer 800 to 900 doses of the vaccine Sunday.

“Things are moving on moving along well,” Turner said. “The goal is to open up more sites throughout the city of Houston, and to work very closely in collaboration with the county to meet the needs of the people in our area.”

Turner hopes to set up a “major mega-site” by the end of the week.

“That’s the goal, where we can vaccinate thousands of people, like in one setting,” Turner said. “We’re working on that and hopefully we can make that happen.”

Watch the briefing in its entirety below:

How the clinic works:

To make an appointment to receive the Moderna vaccine, call the health department’s COVID-19 call center at 832-393-4220 between the house of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Each person will be provided a location and appointment time to be vaccinated. The health department says it will screen people when they first drive into the clinic area, direct them to a secure area to receive the vaccination and monitor them for any adverse reaction for 15 minutes, according to a press release.

Who’s eligible to get the vaccine at the clinic?

Texas’ Phase 1B distribution plan will prioritize people 65 and older and people 16 and older, who have at least one chronic medical condition, putting them at increased risk, according to a release.

According to the release, “The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for persons 18 years of age and older in the U.S. population under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization. Per CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.”

Medical conditions include the following: cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions, solid organ transplantation, obesity and severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease and type 2 diabetes.

The release also stated that frontline healthcare workers will be eligible for vaccination as part of the Phase 1A distribution that began in mid-December.

The Houston Health Department will announce additional free vaccination opportunities as supply increases.

According to the release, people who qualify should contact their medical provider or use the Texas Department of State Health Services’ online map to find and call vaccine providers.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, click here.

About the Authors:

Award-winning journalist, mother, YouTuber, social media guru, millennial, mentor, storyteller, University of Houston alumna and Houston-native.

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.