Hundreds of people called the Galveston County Health District on Wednesday, inundating a call center with attempts to schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccines.

The district this week received 400 doses of the vaccine and Wednesday morning opened a phone line to allow those least 65 years old to sign up for a shot.

Demand for the vaccinations far outweighed the supply. All the appointments offered by the district were filled within two hours, spokeswoman Ashley Tompkins said. People trying to get through reported dropped calls, mistaken transfers and long periods of waiting on hold.

Health officials would repeat the process the next time the district receives a shipment of vaccines from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Tompkins said.

There is no centralized distribution or scheduling method for COVID vaccinations in Galveston County. More than a dozen individual health care providers, including the health district, have received shipments of vaccines from the state, but the district is the only organization to offer vaccinations through a public sign-up system.

The University of Texas Medical Branch, the county’s largest health care provider, has received a majority of the vaccinations sent to the county.

The medical branch hasn’t opened vaccinations up to the general public and has instead told medical branch patients to wait for an invitation to receive the vaccine.

The unorganized method of vaccine distribution in the county frustrated people trying to reach the health district, Tompkins said.

Alice Kenney, 72, of Hitchcock, said she had been able to schedule a shot for herself through her medical branch-affiliated doctor. But Kenney was one of the many trying to call the health district on Tuesday to try to schedule a shot for her 90-year-old husband, who uses a different doctor.

The doctor refused to sign them both up, she said.

“I don’t think it was fair,” Kenney said. “I think it would have been just as easy to get these shots out if he and I both went and got these shots. Doesn’t that make more sense? No matter where he goes, he’s still going to need to get it.”

She was unable to reach the health district Wednesday, she said. Her husband’s doctor hasn’t received an allocation of COVID shots.

It’s not clear when the health district will receive another shipment of vaccinations, and it isn’t creating a list to book future appointments once those vaccines arrive, Tompkins said.

“There’s not a waiting list and we’re not taking any additional appointments,” Tompkins said. “The doses we’ve received have been accounted for.”

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(1) comment

E.J Petree

Once again I wish to express my anger with the Galveston County Health District and UTMB for not having a good plan for distribution of the vaccine and publishing that plan in the GDN. Am I the only one who is outraged at how the public has been made to beg for the vaccine? Shame on UTMB, Galveston County Health District and the Galveston Daily News for not getting this information out to the public. Instead, we read about the growing number of deaths from this deadly virus. In essence the Galvestonians are left high and dry, not even knowing who to beg for the life-saving vaccines.

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