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Harris County: Covid-19 updates

1)  The COVID-19 Vaccine is Safe and Effective.

I want to acknowledge the skepticism that communities of color are feeling, which comes from historical mistreatment by the American medical system. But at the same time, I want to reassure everyone that this vaccine is safe and effective.

We can only begin to recover as a community from this pandemic once we have this protection against the virus. The two doses of the vaccine are 95% effective against infection of the coronavirus, and the approved vaccines have been through rigorous testing to prove their effectiveness.

I myself received the second dose of the vaccine recently as part of the Phase 1B rollout and can personally attest to its safety and efficacy.

Harris County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution will be Equitable.

Last week, Harris County Public Health launched our COVID-19 vaccine portal, which is an important first step in ensuring that our most vulnerable, at-risk community members can get this life-saving vaccine.

Throughout the past year, this pandemic has exacerbated existing health disparities in these communities. People of color and low-income workers have faced the worst of this public health crisis because they are less likely to have access to affordable health care, to jobs with paid sick leave, and disproportionately have to work on the frontlines, unable to stay home. We must ensure they are prioritized for this vaccine.

3)  The Harris County Vaccine Portal is now Open.

The new COVID-19 Vaccine portal will allow all residents to be placed on a waitlist and be contacted once vaccines and appointments are available.

The waitlist can be accessed:

  • Online at bit.ly/hcvaxportal. Online registration is not compatible with Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge.
  • By phone by calling 832-927-8787 Monday-Saturday from 9 am-5 pm.

The “Smart Waitlist” system does not operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Instead, registrants on the waitlist will be prioritized in accordance with state guidelines. Currently, only individuals who fall under the DSHS Phase 1A and 1B category are eligible for appointments to receive the vaccine, but anyone can register for the waitlist.

Phase 1A and 1B individuals include:

  • Frontline Health Workers
  • Long-term Care Facility Residents
  • Persons 65 Years or Older
  • Persons with Chronic Medical Conditions at Increased Risk of Severe Illness

**Proof of citizenship, residence, and/or insurance is not required**

In addition to the Harris County Vaccine portal, we encourage you to get on all waitlists that you are eligible for, including through your health care provider or pharmacy. We are working with limited supplies and we want you to get the vaccine as soon as you are able.

4)    The Vaccine Distribution Process Will Take Time.

Although anyone who resides in Harris County can currently sign up for the waitlist regardless of eligibility, you will not likely be contacted until the State of Texas expands eligibility beyond Phase 1A & 1B, which is not expected until late Spring or Summer of this year.

Additionally, the vaccine portal, both the website and the call center are experiencing high volumes. The website may occasionally be down for maintenance and the call center currently has wait times of around 1-2 hours for those calling on the phone. Please be patient as we continue to build capacity and await for increased supply of the vaccine from the state.

Getting everyone vaccinated is the next step to get our community to recover from this pandemic and get back to normal. Although we are only at the beginning of this process, I am hopeful that we will soon be over this crisis. In the meantime, please continue to social distance, wear your masks, and stay home as much as possible. Let’s stay smart, and do our part to keep our community safe.

Rodney Ellis