County launches online waitlist for vaccine

Houston-area residents who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but have so far been unsuccessful can join an online waiting list launched Tuesday by Harris County Public Health (HCPH).

HCPH said in a news release that its "Smart Waitlist" system will not use a first-come, first-served process but will instead prioritize eligible registrants and then select them at random to receive the vaccine at a county-sponsored site. The HCPH website says it is acting as a safety net provider, and that wait times could be weeks or months, so it encourages residents with other opportunities to receive the vaccine to take advantage of them.

Community members can sign up for the waiting list by visiting readyharris.org or https://vacstrac.hctx.net, or by calling 832-927-8787. HCPH said all residents are welcome to join the waiting list, but only those in Phase 1A or 1B as outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services are eligible to receive the vaccine at this time.

Those included in Phase 1A are healthcare workers, pharmacy workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, first responders and school nurses. The Phase 1B group includes adults over age 65 as well as people who are at least 16 and have at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness or death, such as cancer, kidney disease, heart conditions, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Within its online waiting list, HCPH said eligible registrants will be prioritized by age group, with higher priority given to people who are older. Once selected to receive the vaccine, registrants will be contacted with instructions for scheduling a vaccination time and location.

As of Monday, HCPH said it had vaccinated more than 27,000 people since December.

"As more supply of vaccine becomes available, HCPH will continue to ensure allocation and administration of vaccines are done in ways that are efficient, fair and equitable, and that vulnerable communities have equal access to vaccines," HCPH said.

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