Good idea, and about time.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Monday afternoon a new COVID-19 vaccine waitlist, in an effort to ensure those who are high priority don’t get overlooked and make for a smoother process.
Hidalgo explained the basics of how the waitlist will work. Hidalgo was joined by Dr. Sherri Onyiego, the interim local health authority for Harris County Public Health.
The waitlist is said to be weighted and randomized, meaning the website won’t necessarily favor whoever has the quickest internet connection. Once the portal opens Tuesday, everyone will be able to register.
If you fall under the 1A, 1B or seniors groups, then your registration will be weighted for priority, and it will then be randomized within the priority list.
The launch of this new portal and waitlist expands the previous process by allowing eligible residents to sign up for vaccines on their own directly, according to a press release from the county.
Eligible residents without internet access can also call 832 927-8787 once the portal is live to be placed on the waitlist.
The new system starts today:
Today, Judge Hidalgo and Harris County Public Health announced a waitlist system for distributing limited vaccines in a way that is efficient, fair and equitable. Sign up begins tomorrow 1.26.21 on http://ReadyHarris.org
— Office of Judge Lina Hidalgo (@HarrisCoJudge) 2:20 PM – 25 January 2021
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine shouldn’t be a matter of who can hit refresh on a browser the fastest, or who has the most free time to sign up while others who work long hours miss out. That’s why we’ve designed this system to maximize fairness, equity, and efficiency.
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) 2:45 PM – 25 January 2021
That’s a good approach, and honestly it’s how we should be doing this nationwide. I’ve heard plenty of stories of people with good Internet skills or just the right about of persistence and life-hacking who have helped people sign up for vaccines, but it really can’t and shouldn’t be this hard. And honestly, even for the folks like me who are closer to the back of the line, just being able to register now and then wait to be called when it is our turn would likely relieve a lot of anxiety out there. This starts today and if it works as well as I expect it will, I hope other counties will follow suit. The Chron and Houston Public Media have more.
Meanwhile, on a related note.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is pushing the state to refine its criteria for COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, saying that whittling down the list may better prioritize vulnerable Texans and clear up confusion over when shots will actually be available.
The state is currently offering the vaccine to frontline workers and vulnerable Texans, a group of more than 9 million people — even though the state is only receiving about 300,000 doses a week. That numerical reality has made for a confusing and frustrating process for Texans eligible for a shot, with many unable to find available doses or unsure where to look with demand far exceeding supply.
“Texans need to have a better understanding of the time it will take for everyone to be vaccinated in order to reduce lines, confusion and frustration,” Patrick wrote in a Thursday letter to the state’s Expert Vaccination Allocation Panel.
It will probably be May at the earliest before all members of that first priority group have been immunized, said Dr. David Lakey, a member of the state’s vaccine panel, in an interview this week with Hearst Newspapers. The Texans currently eligible are included in groups 1A — health care workers and nursing home residents — and 1B, those over 65 and anyone 16 or older with certain pre-existing medical conditions.
Patrick suggested creating subgroups within 1B over the next several weeks — perhaps by first taking two weeks to vaccinate those 75 and older, a group of about 1.5 million. Then, he said, a subgroup of roughly 65,000 teachers and school staff over 65 could become eligible.
“This would help give people an idea of reasonable expectations and reduce wait times and frustration each week,” Patrick wrote. “Right now, in many cities and counties when an announcement of available vaccinations is made, website sign-up pages crash and phone calls go unanswered.”
Seems reasonable, and as above it makes you wonder why no one had thought of this before. Including and especially Greg Abbott, who did not come up with this idea despite being the immovable object on everyone’s COVID plans. We’ll see what happens with this.