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Houston-area COVID vaccine and testing sites reopen following worst of Texas winter weather

Experts say cases could rise after a week of worrying more about power outages and a lack of water.

HOUSTON — A frigid week ended Friday on a brighter note.

"It’s good to see a little sunshine,” Jasmine Slaughter, of Houston, said.

But a dark cloud persists for people like Slaughter who were in a line to get a COVID-19 test.

“I work at T-Mobile, I sell cell phones, I’m around customers all the time," Slaughter said. "So I want to just get it checked to be safe before I go back to work.”

The testing site at UMMC in north Houston was among a select number of testing and/or vaccine sites re-opened in conjunction with the Houston Health Department.

Harris County Public Health and Fort Bend County began giving second doses by appointment as well with plans to expand next week.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also announced that 42,000 people per week will be vaccinated at NRG Park starting next Tuesday beginning with those on the city and county’s waitlists.

"Because of the weather, the people who are doing vaccines and testing couldn’t continue," Dr. Catherine Troisi, with UT Public Health, said. "Which puts us back a week or so.”

Troisi said most second doses should still happen within the appropriate timeframe.

More troubling may be a rise in cases related to COVID being on the back burner for many dealing with the impact of the winter storm.

"It’s entirely possible we will see a, I hate to say surge, it may not be that bad," Troisi said. "But an increase in cases over the next couple of weeks.”

COVID is something Nathalie Bucio is just getting over.

“I lost my appetite, I lost a lot of weight too," said Bucio.  "I was really sleepy, I slept a lot.”

The weather kept her from getting a follow-up test.

"We planned to do it Tuesday, but everything that happened," Bucio said. "We’re here today.”

She and others wish the pandemic would pass as quickly as the Texas freeze.

"All we can do is take the precautions that we have to and stay safe and do our part," Slaughter said. "And hopefully sooner or late it’ll be gone.”

We’re told the winter weather did impact shipments of some vaccines.

But health officials say second doses can be given up to six weeks after the first dose and still be effective.

Harris County Public Health added that it will contact you about scheduling a second does no matter what it might say on the card you receive after the first dose.

Here's a press release it issued on Friday:

Houston – Harris County Public Health currently has a limited amount of COVID-19 vaccines due to the recent weather events. Although the second dose of the Moderna vaccine should be administered 28 days after receiving the first dose, it may be scheduled up to 6 weeks (42 days) after the first dose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, delay in receiving a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine does not impact the vaccines overall effectiveness.

Only individuals with scheduled appointments will be honored at designated sites today and tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 20th. For those who are due for their second dose appointment and have not been contacted yet, HCPH will contact you through email or text to schedule that appointment next week. Please do not go to a vaccination site because you cannot be seen without a scheduled appointment/code. 

Individuals who had their appointments cancelled due to vaccination site closures should have received a notification of the cancellation due to weather conditions and phone call to reschedule the appointment if an appointment was available for Saturday. All others that were cancelled and not given a new appointment for Saturday will be prioritized for a makeup appointment next week once HCPH receives additional vaccine. If you do not receive a notification mid-next week, please contact 832-927-8787.

To sign up for free COVID-19 vaccinations through HCPH, please visit vacstrac.hctx.net/landing or call 832-927-8787. Harris County Public Health is still vaccinating individuals in Groups 1A and 1B. For full definitions of these categories and additional information regarding vaccines, please visit hcphtx.org.

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