FEMA Vaccine Jabs Begin With Long Lines As City Appointments Fill In A Blink

Houstonians are hungry for COVID-19 vaccines now that the region has finally warmed up.
Houstonians are hungry for COVID-19 vaccines now that the region has finally warmed up. Screenshot
Houston area residents sure seem as eager as ever to grab the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines available after last week’s winter storm delayed inoculations across the region. The first full day of vaccinations on Wednesday at NRG Stadium's new clinic, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saw long lines of city and county residents queue up in their cars, and 2,000 new appointments from the city health department filled up in ten minutes total between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday night, the Houston Health Department sent out an alert via email and text message that it was opening up 1,000 new sign-up slots for next-day vaccine appointments at Bayou City Event Center to folks in the state’s 1A and 1B priority groups, but all appointment slots filled-up in six minutes.

The city health department opened up an additional 1,000 appointment slots on Wednesday afternoon (also at Bayou City Event Center); This time around, they were all claimed within just four minutes.

The 2,000 appointments made available to the public this week were the first to use the city’s online sign-up form in weeks. The Houston Health Department has recently been allocating all of its doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to a combo of residents drawn from the Area Agency on Aging’s local waitlist for the elderly, and to smaller local healthcare providers who have been distributing doses to their clients in low-income areas with high minority populations.

Wednesday also saw thousands of Houston and Harris County residents flock to NRG Park after they were selected from the city and county’s existing vaccine waitlists to get first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. It was the first day of inoculations at the FEMA-run vaccine super site after a dry-run on Tuesday, and it sounds like there are still a few logistical hiccups to be worked out at the new mega clinic.

According to the Houston Chronicle, some people were stuck waiting in line for at least an hour before even getting inside the NRG fences; Residents were told their appointments should last around 45 minutes total.

If all goes according to plan, the FEMA site will be able to get 6,000 residents vaccinated a day for three straight weeks before pivoting to second doses. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the new clinic will vaccinate 126,000 locals in total over six weeks.

After that, Hidalgo said she’ll be begging them to stay as long as they can, as there’s still a long road ahead to hitting anything close to the 70-80 percent of the population that would need to be protected from the virus for normalcy-inducing herd immunity to kick-in.
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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards