Dallas County

Despite Fixes at Fair Park Vaccination Hub, Some Turned Away

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Like a lot of North Texans, Mary Gerush was eager to get in line for her COVID-19 vaccine.

Caring for elderly parents, it’s a promise of protection that weighs on her.

"I had signed up on the Dallas County website,” Gerush said.

And though not yet 65, Gerush has hypertension, which she believed might bump her into the 1B priority group.

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Then last Tuesday, she thought she had validation when she got a text from Dallas County prompting her to click through to a screening page.

There, she filled out her name, birthdate and some medical information.

It wasn’t long before she had an appointment time for the next day and a QR code to help verify it was hers.

Wednesday, Gerush and her husband both took off work to drive to Fair Park, only to be turned away.

"We get to the gate and go and the guy says, ‘Hey, are you over 65?’ And I say, ‘No.’ And he says, ‘Well, we're only doing over 65 today.'”

Gerush said she had no choice but to turn around and head home.

“It’s very confusing because, at the end of the day, I don’t know. Am I still on the list? Should I reregister?” Gerush said.

The next morning, health care worker Marcia Allen showed up at Fair Park with her QR code.

"I was there at 6 a.m. for a 9 o'clock appointment,” Allen said.

But two hours in, just like Gerush, she was turned away when she confirmed she wasn’t 65 or older.

“I felt helpless because I knew that I had done everything and I knew that I had answered all the questions, Allen said.

Saturday, Dallas County Health and Human Services said invites were only sent to people 65 and older and issued the following statement.

“There was a loophole where individuals who already received the shot could send their appointment to someone else but that has since been addressed with fixed fields for name and birthdate.

"The QR code is generated after the appointment form is filled out. So if an eligible person sent their link without authorization to someone not eligible, that person could have filled out the form and received a QR code, and thought they had a valid appointment."

That could also lead to confusion for people registering multiple people using the same contact information, like family members, who then receive invitation links that specify which individual it's for.

But by fixing fields to lock in both names and birthdates in the screenings that both women had to fill out before receiving their appointment times, DCHHS said the problem should be fixed.

Except for health care workers that the Fair Park Hub will start vaccinating next week, Dallas County said no one under 65 will be eligible there for now.

Gerush said she understands that with technology comes problems. She just hopes the confusion doesn’t discourage people from getting the vaccine.

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