Open COVID-19 vaccine slots fill within minutes, more than 300,000 people sit on virtual waiting list

This week, COVID-19 vaccine distribution is at an all-time high in Harris County.

A FEMA mega-site opened Wednesday, planning to vaccinate roughly 6,000 people a day for the next several weeks.

According to County and City leaders, those who registered online for wait-lists in Harris County or the City of Houston are being selected for the mega-site.

On Thursday, we confirmed there are more than 330,000 people registered on the Harris County COVID-19 vaccine waiting list. In addition, tens of thousands more remain on the Houston Health Department waiting list.

"I’m just watching how my family is taking care of it," said one Houston resident Thursday.  "[I’m] waiting my turn."

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While thousands of people wait online, the Houston Health Department has sporadically sent out alerts this week for open appointments. More than 1,800 appointments filled up within 6 minutes Thursday night.  As a result, some FOX 26 viewers have expressed confusion. Their main questions; where are these new slots coming from and how come they’re not being filled by people already on the virtual waiting list?

"We’ve got to remember last week our shipment got delayed because of the winter storm," said Porfirio Villarreal from the Houston Health Department. "So, we did not receive the shipment until Tuesday.  We wanted the make sure the community got it as soon as possible.  [The alerts are] the quickest way."

While more and more people get vaccinated, city and county leaders are focusing on what they call "vaccine equity". Officials hope that focusing on the more vulnerable populations will decrease COVID-19’s impact on city hospitals. Appointments for county and city vaccine locations are prioritizing some zip-codes over others.

"We try to make people a priority, who are more at risk of severe disease," said Villarreal.


"It’s not about exclusion, it’s about inclusion," said a spokesperson from Harris County Judge Hidalgo’s office. "Getting an appointment favors those with faster internet connections, or who are constantly hitting refresh.  So, this levels the playing field."