Houston Health Dept. says it's working to get vaccines to areas without 'access'

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Mayor Sylvester Turner gave an update on the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine Saturday afternoon at the Bayou City Event Center as the demand for the vaccine remains high.

Hundreds of people were sent home disappointed after the Houston Health Department announced it ran out of COVID-19 vaccine doses at the public mega site at Minute Maid Park last Saturday. Despite the glitch in the system that caused them to overbook, health officials still administered 5,451 doses of the vaccine that day.

"It's a large operation. There might be glitches every now and then, but I assure you vaccinations are not sitting on shelves," said Turner.

READ MORE: Your latest COVID-19 vaccine questions answered

During Saturday's briefing, Turner said about 900 people were sent home last weekend. He also said about 550 of those received the vaccine on Friday, and between Saturday and next week, the rest will be given the shot.

On Friday, the city received about 9,000 new doses to be administered next week, according to the mayor.

Since then, the Houston Health Department announced it opened 1,600 new COVID-19 vaccination appointment slots for the week of Jan. 25. The appointments were for first doses only, and only those who fell under Phase 1A or 1B of the state's vaccination criteria qualified to receive a dose. All slots were full within about ten minutes of the registration portal opening up, according to Houston Health.

The health department said on Friday that appointments were only confirmed upon receipt of an email or text message, and confirmation numbers would be verified on site.

The new appointments are for the department's new drive-thru vaccination site at Delmar Stadium. The site, operated by United Memorial Medical Center, is slated to open on Monday.

People who show up without confirmed appointments will be turned away, city officials said.

In addition, Stephen L. Williams, the director at the Houston Health Department, said during Saturday's briefing that a partnership with the Hope Clinic on the southwest side of Houston will start next week.

"We want to ensure that neighborhoods where there are challenges related to access, related to transportation, that we actually have sites within those neighborhoods so that people can in fact get the vaccine," said Williams.

Turner said they are also preparing to set up additional sites based on the availability of the supply.

"If there is not a site near you, it's not because we don't want to," he said.

If the shipments of 8,000 to 9,000 doses per week increase, he said they will "be prepared to push out more and quickly open up those additional sites," as the Biden administration works to ramp up the vaccine production.

He also reminded people that those weekly doses are not only limited to the city of Houston.

"When we open that portal, you have people from Harris County, they could be coming from Fort Bend County, Galveston, Montgomery County," he said. "There are no geographical limitations."

SEE RELATED: County-by-county breakdown on COVID-19 vaccine distributions

WATCH: Houston city leaders outline plan to widen vaccine availability
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The COVID-19 vaccine capacity continues to grow while appointments fill up quickly. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner outlines the Houston Health Department's efforts so far.

You can also check with your primary care provider and local pharmacy, or the Texas Department of State Health Services' COVID-19 vaccine availability map.

READ MORE: Track COVID-19 vaccine availability and progress across Houston

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