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‘Glitch’ causes some with appointments to be turned away from Minute Maid Park vaccine megasite

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HOUSTON – A so-called “glitch” Saturday forced Houston health officials to turn away some people with appointments to get vaccinated at the Minute Maid Park megasite.

Several frustrated people called the KPRC 2 newsroom to report that after they waited in line for a few hours, they were told the coronavirus vaccine supply at the megasite was depleted. A video that was shared with KPRC 2 showed a worker announcing just that, saying that a “glitch in the system where it duplicated appointments.” The worker can be heard telling people to remain in line so that they can reschedule their appointment and that they will be a priority for the next clinic.

“They said they didn’t have enough vaccine so they will reschedule and they will call us,” said Prakass Basndari, who was turned away.

“As soon as they told us to walk, I looked and they were locking the gate,” said Richard Bonilla, who was also turned away.

In a tweet, Houston Health Department officials said they went over their scheduled appoints and had to stop accepting patients because of the volume of people still in line. Officials said staff members are taking the names of people in line who had appointments that will need to be rescheduled.

“We will look into what caused us to go over our scheduled appointments today and ensure it’s corrected,” the tweet read. “We apologize for the inconvenience as we all work together to end this pandemic.”

In a tweet from the City of Houston account, officials said they were “trying to accommodate everyone who showed up.”

Mary Benton, director of communications for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, said the original goal was to vaccinate 5,000 people. Turner tweeted Saturday night that 6,122 people had gotten the shot during the clinic.

On Sunday, the Mayor’s office released a statement regarding the problems at the city’s Saturday vaccination clinic at Minute Maid Park, stating that “Several factors appeared to have contributed to the long lines Saturday afternoon, and we are taking steps to address the issues.”

“We will improve our appointment system to ensure people who register online receive confirmation of their appointment and better understand the process,” the statement read. “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. These adjustments will also help eliminate the potential for people to share their confirmation number with others.”

Those who had scheduled a Saturday vaccination appointment at the Minute Maid Park megasaite but did not receive their vaccine and did not provide their name and phone number before leaving are asked to call the Houston Health Department’s COVID-19 call center at (832)393-4220 on Thursday to reschedule. Those individuals who did provide their name and number before leaving the site can expect a call from the department on Thursday.

People patiently waited in line Saturday at the Juice Box to get their COVID-19 shot.

Ron Cowel said he was thankful he was able to get the vaccine at the ballpark-turned-clinic.

“You don’t have popcorn, hot dogs or beer, and there’s no one starting the wave,” Cowel said. “But you’re getting your vaccine, and I’m very grateful.”

While some said they waited in line for a few hours, Donald Anderson said he was surprised at how fast it moved.

“I said, ‘Look at all these people,’” Anderson said. “I said, ‘It’s going to be a long time,’ but it moved real quick.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester said the goal was to get several hundred people in and out of the megasite every hour.

On Sunday, the Mayor’s office released a statement regarding the “glitch” at the city’s Saturday vaccination clinic at Minute Maid Park.

Read the statement in its entirety below:

Saturday’s COVID-19 vaccination mega site at Minute Maid Park inched Houston closer to the end of the pandemic. Although demand far outmatched supply, 6,462 more people had their first dose of vaccine by the end of the day.

I knew vaccinating 5,000 people in a single day was ambitious, but I also know getting the vaccine out as quickly as possible once received is vital to saving lives. While we exceeded our goal, there were challenges.                                                                                The Houston Health Department accommodated as many people as possible Saturday, but it was forced to close the site at 6 p.m. and reschedule some people for a future appointment date.

Several factors appeared to have contributed to the long lines Saturday afternoon, and we are taking steps to address the issues. We will improve our appointment system to ensure people who register online receive confirmation of their appointment and better understand the process. 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. These adjustments will also help eliminate the potential for people to share their confirmation number with others.

If you had an appointment Saturday and did not provide your name and phone number before leaving, please call the Houston Health Department’s COVID-19 call center at 832-393-4220 on Thursday to reschedule. You will need your confirmation number. If you provided your name and number on site, you will be contacted Thursday.

As of Sunday, our health department received a total of 30,950 doses of vaccine. Of the allotment, the department transferred 1,900 doses to other providers. It administered 27,487 doses at locations including Minute Maid Park, Bayou City Event Center, its Northside, La Nueva Casa de Amigos, Sharpstown and Sunnyside health centers, the JW Peavy Senior Center, and its Acres Homes, Hiram Clarke, and Magnolia multi-service centers.

As supply increases, the Houston Health Department will make the vaccine available at its health centers, multi-service centers, community locations, and mobile units.

Learn about new appointment opportunities through email, text message, voice call, or mobile app push notification by registering for the HoustonRecovers subscription of AlertHouston at HoustonEmergency.org/covid19.

Other vaccine clinics were held by Houston-area hospital systems Saturday.

Houston Methodist officials said about 4,500 people were vaccinated during their clinic.

Memorial Hermann Hospital also held a vaccine clinic at NRG Park for the third day. Hospital officials said more than 10,000 people have been vaccinated so far.

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