The health department receives weekly shipments of the vaccine in varying amounts, sometimes with little advance notice of the amount of vaccine it will receive per shipments, officials have said. As of Jan. 27, the city has inoculated 32,521 people.
Unlike previous shipments, the health department will not open its appointment scheduling portal. Instead, the health department will work through a list of residents who called to sign up for a waitlist through the city’s partnership with the Area Agency on Aging.
The agency received over 70,000 calls from residents over the age of 65 or calling on behalf of someone over the age of 65 to sign up for the city’s waitlist. As of Jan. 29, the Area Agency on Aging temporarily stopped accepting phone calls.
Out of 9,000 doses the city plans to administer, 5,300 will be given to those over 65 who are on the agency’s waitlist; 2,400 will be given “through providers in vulnerable communities”; and 1,300 will be given to those with existing appointments, according to a Houston Health Department press release Jan. 29
The department opened appointments at the beginning of January and filled slots for one month before closing the appointment portal. It also reopened the portal twice temporarily when the department received additional shipments.This process differs from the Harris County Health Department, which set up an open waitlist Jan. 26.
The health department is placing some focus on vulnerable communities as questions have arisen about equity in the city’s vaccine rollout process.
As of Jan. 27, white residents have received a disproportionate share of vaccinations while Hispanic residents have received disproportionately less doses, the health department reported.
Hispanic residents were the most underrepresented in the vaccinations so far, making up 45% percent of the city’s population but representing 22% of vaccinations.
They also have been overrepresented in cases and deaths throughout the pandemic, according to department data.
White residents were the most over-represented group, making up 25% of the city’s population but 43% of its vaccinations.
Black residents’ representation among vaccinations was closest to representing their share of the population making up 22% of overall residents and 18% of vaccinations.
Asian residents represent 7% of the population and 15% of vaccinations so far.
The department did note, however, that 12% of those inoculated did not record their race.
The department is also beginning to schedule over 11,000 second doses for those who have already been inoculated by the city. Residents should expect a phone call scheduling their next dose, according to the department.
Second doses should ideally be administered 28 days after the first; however, they are still highly effective for up to 42 days, Houston Health Department Director Dr. David Persse said.