We Know. Registering For A COVID-19 Vaccine in Texas is Hard.

Here are some tips to navigate the registration system more easily.

By Terri Langford & Laura RiceJanuary 29, 2021 11:22 am,

Right now, Texans over the age of 65 and those individuals over 16 who have an underlying health condition, are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

But eligibility is one thing and getting a vaccine is quite another.

One big frustration we’re hearing from listeners is: How exactly do I sign up for a vaccine appointment?

So the Texas Standard did a little digging to find out why it’s so hard to navigate the vaccination appointment system. And based on our research, we’ve listed tips and answers to your many questions. These suggestions are for those now eligible, the group known as 1B.

So I’ve gone to the Texas Department of State Health Services website and wow, it’s pretty lengthy and confusing. Am I in the right place? 

We agree, it is a bit weedy. And yes, you’re in the right place. But instead of going to DSHS’ main page, start here with their list of vaccine hub providers. They’re located in the state’s largest 53 counties. Find a hub location in your area, go to the listed hub’s website and make an appointment. Or you can start with their better-written instructions on Twitter here:

Update:  On Feb. 1, DSHS announced that people who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine but do not have access to the internet, can call 2-1-1 for referral to a local vaccine provider.

I don’t live in these counties where there is a vaccine hub provider. Can I still go to one?

Yes. The state also has this map of other providers, like pharmacies.

Can I make my appointment at one of these instead of a hub provider? 

Yes you can. But DSHS is urging people to try the hub providers first.

I want to increase my chances for a vaccine by registering at multiple locations. Should I do that? 

No. Making multiple appointments means you are tying up vaccine doses and making extra work for essential health care workers. Don’t be that person. Try vaccination hubs first and when you can’t get an appointment there, try another hub. Still no luck? Then try the other providers.

But it’s so hard getting on these sites and some of the local sites are crashing. Why is this so hard? 

We know. Keep trying.

As to why, there are a couple of reasons. Texas is big, about 29 million people. And of those, about 13%, or nearly 4 million, are 65 and older. That’s a lot. That’s about the size of the entire state of Oklahoma.

Remember, Texas is also making eligible anyone with a certain health condition over the age of 16. Again. More people.

And nationally, there are just not enough vaccines to go around yet.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas received the second largest shipment of doses, but is ranked nearly dead last in the number of folks vaccinated per capita because again, we’re big.

Also, it could be that the state put the cart – the registration system – in place before wrangling a horse – vaccine doses. In December, there were a lot of reports that not enough essential workers were getting vaccinated and there were unused doses left on provider shelves. That turned out to be more of a vaccine data reporting glitch than anything, according to Texas Tribune. So when the vaccine was available to more eligible people, a bigger registration system (that cart) was put in place, but now we are all waiting on supply (that horse).

OK, I still don’t get why the state didn’t plan a better registration system? Seems like it was on purpose. Surely they knew a pandemic would hit one day, right? 

We’re hearing that a lot. But there’s no evidence we can find the state is trying to hamper vaccine registration. We chalk it up to human error and again, a lack of supply.

It is true that the state spends a lot of money training people to craft public messages and also to develop public awareness campaigns, for example, the well-known “Don’t Mess With Texas” anti-littering campaign.

Also, both state and local governments and industry groups have spent years worrying about a pandemic and on disaster drills preparing for a pandemic or warning the federal government about what challenges are ahead as you see in this 2007 document . Here’s a link to DSHS’ own 2012 guide to devising clear emergency prep exercises to prepare for disaster like a pandemic. So yes, we’re unsure what happened.

However, DSHS is aware of the situation and is working on it.

Frustrated and want to share your story? Leave us a recording here.

More questions? Email me at tlangford@kut.org.

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