The vaccine, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is administered in one dose rather than the two doses formulated by drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna.
“The vaccine is in the community. ... There is a lot of effort going toward getting the vaccine into people’s arms as quickly as possible ... but mask wearing and social distancing remains our single best defense,” Houston Emergency Medical Director Dr. David Persse said.
The first shipment will be sent to the mass-vaccination site run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at NRG Stadium. The site vaccinates individuals who sign up for doses though the Houston Health Department’s vaccine waitlist. The waitlist is currently only open to those who qualify under the state of Texas’ Phase 1A and 1B priority categories. Phase 1A and 1B include those over the age of 65 and those with certain chronic health conditions.
Future shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be distributed through other providers as well, Persse said.
The convenience of the one-dose vaccine will make it ideal for hard-to-reach populations such as homeless residents, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
“It is very difficult to get them back for the second appointment,” Turner said.
The 6,000 Johnson & Johnson doses come in addition to the city’s weekly allotment of about 9,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and the FEMA site’s capacity to inoculate 6,000 individuals per day.
As a result of the city’s growing supply of vaccine doses, the Houston Health Department is now keeping its vaccine waitlist open rather than opening it only to fill a limited number of appointments at a time. It is still only open to individuals in the Phase 1A and 1B categories, Houston Health Department Director Steven Williams said.
Sign up for the waitlist here. Eligible residents can also call and sign up for the waitlist through the Area Agency on Aging at 832-393-4301 or the Mayor’s Office of Disabilities at 832-393-5500. For general information, call 832-393-4220.
The health department reported 914 new cases and seven new deaths March 1. The city's test positivity rate is at 11.8%, down from a high of over 20% during the city’s post-holiday surge.