Coronavirus Houston: Answers to common COVID-19 vaccine questions

Miya Shay Image
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Vaccines are going out, but who is getting them?
ABC13 answered vaccine-related questions on specific Houston-area hospitals, major pharmacies and Phase 1B patients.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This week, the Texas Department of State Health Services says a total of 1.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be distributed across the state. The vast majority of the doses are going out to private hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices. County and city health departments are treated like any other provider under the state plan, and do not generally have the most doses in every county.

The lack of a statewide distribution plan or a phone number for people to call to make appointments has created a lot of questions. ABC13 has analyzed the data to answer some of your questions below. The full Texas DSHS COVID-19 vaccine link can be found on the state dashboard.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 vaccines right now?

According to the state of Texas, vaccine distribution has been broken down into phases. Phase 1A includes medical workers and those living in nursing homes, and Phase 1B includes anyone who is 65 and older, or 16 and older with a chronic medical condition such as cancer, COPD, heart conditions, organ transplant, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease and type 2 diabetes.

I qualify for the vaccine! Can I get it now?

Possibly. There are not enough doses for everyone who qualifies. In general, patients with established relationships with large hospital chains are getting access to the vaccines faster.

How can I try to get the vaccine?

The city of Houston now has an online system for booking appointments, but only for those who fall in the groups of Phase 1A and 1B - the first responders and those over 65 or with qualifying conditions.

If you do not meet those qualifications, do not book an appointment at this time. Appointment times are being added as the City of Houston Health Department gets more doses, so check back often.

If you have private health insurance, officials recommend you check with your personal doctor first to see if they are linked with a major hospital chain or have requested doses from the state.

If you use a hospital system, like Memorial Hermann or Houston Methodist, for your primary care, call the office and make sure you are registered with your latest email and contact information. They will notify you when you qualify. Also, call your pharmacy if you use one regularly, and make sure you ask to be registered or ask if they have any available. You can also check with urgent care facilities near your home to see if they are in line for vaccines.

Is there a list of locations with vaccines?

ABC13 has curated the state database to all facilities that received vaccines in Harris, Fort Bend, and Galveston Counties. You can find the list embedded here. You can search through and try to call any of the providers. Some may have dosage.

I called around. Nobody has a vaccine for my elderly parent. What do I do?

You should continue to check with your local pharmacy and clinics in your area. More vaccines are being delivered every day.

For example, the Galveston County Health District announced on Tuesday that it will offer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to those who are 65 and older by appointment only. The COVID-19 phone bank will open at 9 a.m. Wednesday. You can call 409-547-4015 to make an appointment.

The health district said it received an additional 400 vaccine doses. But the appointments are required because of the limited supply.

More shipments are expected in coming weeks. The health district also plans to expand who is eligible to receive the vaccine as more doses become available. You can learn more by visiting the Galveston County website.

State health officials do estimate it will take several months for the majority of Texans to locate immunization doses.

Every time I call a location, they tell me they are only taking established patients first. Is that allowed?

The State of Texas guidance focuses on categories of people who should be prioritized for vaccines. However, it has left the actual distribution of vaccines to each provider. Therefore, each hospital and doctors clinics can create its own criteria for distributing vaccines. Since there is not enough vaccines for everyone, almost all hospitals and medical offices are vaccinating their established patients first. ABC13 has asked state officials to clarify this issue.

My regular doctor is with Houston Methodist. Will I get a vaccine?

Methodist started notifying established patients who are 75 and over for vaccination slots this week. The hospital system says it will begin notifying qualifying patients 65 and over along with those who have chronic conditions in the next one or two weeks. Methodist Hospitals has received around 40,000 doses so far, one of the most in our region.

My regular doctor is with Memorial Hermann. Will I get a vaccine?

Memorial Hermann began notifying Phase 1B patients with established relationships on Monday, Dec. 28. Check your emails. If you did not get an email to schedule, you may want to call your doctor's office to make sure you are on the list. The hospital has received close to 50,000 doses, the most of any hospital system in our region.

My regular doctor is with Kelsey Seybold. Will I get a vaccine?

Kelsey-Seybold received 4,600 doses so far. It is currently vaccinating Phase 1A and has begun some vaccination of Phase 1B. Kelsey-Seybold says it is proactively reaching out to patients who qualify

My regular doctor is with Baylor College of Medicine. Will I get a vaccine?

Baylor College of Medicine received 4,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Monday, Dec. 28 and began vaccinations on Tuesday, Dec. 29. Baylor is currently doing both Phase 1A and some Phase 1B vaccines. Please check your MyChart links and contact your doctor if you have questions.

My regular doctor is with UT Health. Will I get a vaccine?

As of Dec. 30, UT Physicians is only vaccinating frontline employees under Phase 1A. There is not yet a time table for Phase 1B patients to receive the vaccine.

My regular doctor is HCA Hospitals. Will I get a vaccine?

HCA Hospitals in the Houston, Galveston, and Ft. Bend regions received more than 6,000 doses of the vaccine. ABC13 contacted the hospital system, but it did not want to answer questions about its vaccine availability. However, HCA does have a website up with information.

I go to Legacy Community Health, will I get a vaccine?

Legacy Community Health has received approximately 2,000 doses from the state of Texas. It is currently vaccinating Phase 1A and 1B. All appointments for this week have been filled. However, the federally qualified health clinic does have an online portal, so it's worth checking to see if appointments are available.

What about CVS & Walgreens?

CVS and Walgreens are currently participating in the vaccination of nursing home residents as part of a federal plan. At this point, they are not administering vaccines to the general public, but you should continue checking.

Do grocery stores like Kroger, Randalls, and H-E-B have vaccines?

Kroger, Randalls, and H-E-B pharmacies do have vaccines, but availability is limited.

Currently, H-E-B each Houston area HEB pharmacy has received approximately 100 doses of the vaccine. Those have been mostly distributed to medical workers. H-E-B is awaiting more vaccines from the state so it can distribute them to Phase 1B customers. Pharmacy customers should check back with the website for more updates.

I see on the list eye centers, orthopedic doctors, and dermatology offices with doses. Are those available?

Any medical provider could apply to be a vaccine distributor, including specialty physicians. Because there is no central state database, you would have to contact each specialty physician's office directly to see if they have doses available.

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