Houston's first mega site unable to vaccinate everyone with appointments

A mega mishap at Houston’s first coronavirus vaccine super-site is causing some people to ask questions.

On Saturday, a line of people with COVID-19 vaccine appointments at Minute Maid Park were turned away after waiting for hours.  The Houston Health Department sent a tweet at the time reading, "We’re unable to accommodate the volume of people in line."

"I’m one of the ones who wants the vaccine and seemingly can’t get it," said Andre Harris.  "It’s almost like Willy Wonka and the golden ticket."

New video posted publicly to Snapchat shows large crowds inside Minute Maid Park Saturday.  The stadium’s roof was open.

So far, this is the largest COVID-19 vaccine distribution site hosted by the Houston Health Department.  According to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, almost 6,500 people were vaccinated on Saturday.

"There was someone behind me, someone right in front of me, and there were thousands of people in there," said a woman named Sarah.  "I was a little bit worried.  It was kind of a vulnerable population super spreader event."

"Several factors appeared to have contributed to the long lines Saturday afternoon, and we are taking steps to address the issues," said Mayor Turner.  "We will improve our appointment system to ensure people who register online receive confirmation of their appointment and better understand the process."

Harris says he has a health condition that qualifies him for group 1B of the Texas distribution plan.  The current University of Houston student says he had to rent a car in Austin to drive to Minute Maid for his vaccine appointment Saturday.

"When we heard the message that there are no more vaccines, I can’t even explain the anger that washed over me and the people in line with me," said Harris.  "Someone who may not even be in phase 1A or 1B, or might not have even had an appointment, may have taken my vaccine."

The Houston Health Department had expected to vaccinate 5,000 people Saturday.  However, they managed to vaccinate 6,462 people.  Harris and Sara wonder how this happened.

"They were not checking IDs at all," said Harris.  "They never once asked for a confirmation number."

"We will also more thoroughly confirm confirmation numbers on-site so people without appointments can’t skip the line by claiming to have lost their number," said Mayor Turner.  "These adjustments will also help eliminate the potential for people to share their confirmation number with others."

According to the Houston Health Department, those in line who didn’t receive the vaccine will be rescheduled.  For those who left without providing their name and contact information, they should call 832-393-4220 on Thursday and provide their confirmation number.

"My whole Saturday was gone," said Harris.  "I got home literally at 1 last night.  There was nothing to show for it other than 200 dollars down the drain for gas money."