Galveston Co. health officials announce vaccine waitlist to do away with 'cattle call'

GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Galveston County health officials announced they have created a COVID-19 vaccine waitlist, similar to the portal Harris County announced Monday afternoon.

This means the University of Texas Medical Branch will do away with the "cattle call" approach in which people sign up by phone or online.

"The cattle call system is not the best way to manage the vaccination schedule," said Dr. Philip Keiser, the local health authority for Galveston County.

The phone bank can be reached at 877-389-2318. Go to utmbhealth.com/vaccine to register for the waitlist. You do not have to be a resident of Galveston County or a UTMB patient to sign up for the waitlist. Only those in Phase 1A and 1B are asked to sign up at this time.

The two vaccination hubs designated to the county, at UTMB Health and Galveston County Health district, are responsible for getting as many people vaccinated each week, but they're dependent on the number of doses.

When the health district started taking submissions for appointments on Monday, the phone bank and online systems were overwhelmed. When the system opened at 9:30 a.m. Monday, there were on average 2,500 calls each minute and 20,000 logins online to register.

The system initially locked many people out, but enough got through to where 1,000 appointments were booked within minutes and hundreds to thousands of people were left out.

Keiser said HCA Houston Healthcare has expressed interest in joining the effort with the county and UTMB Health.

Much like the way the Harris County waitlist is expected to work, this one won't guarantee the vaccine right away to someone who's on the list. Right now, people in group 1A or 1B are eligible for the shot. In Harris County, anyone can pre-register, but only people in those groups are going to get appointments for now. If they're not in group 1A or 1B, they can still sign up but will only get an appointment when eligibility expands.

Keiser said it may take more than a month for the plan to see the finish line, "but it would be better than everyone making a mad rush to sign up."

He said if done properly, those people selected from the waitlist would receive an email with options available to that person to get the vaccine. That person would then have a deadline they would have to sign up by.

The video above is from a previous related story.

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

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