Dallas

Dallas Mayor Apologizes After Long Lines, Appointment Loophole Plague Vaccination Process at Convention Center

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A loophole that allows people to register using other people's COVID-19 vaccine appointment link led to long lines and frustration outside Dallas' Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on Saturday, as hundreds of people were turned away without receiving a shot.

On Monday a city spokesperson said the confusion led to 450 people who had valid appointments being turned away.

Nancy Vernon, 82, was one of them.

Vernon, who has diabetes and was recently widowed, has lived the last year in isolation.

Vernon and her daughter Cathy waited five hours in a traffic jam outside the convention center only to be told the city ran out of vaccines.

A loophole that allows people to register off other people’s COVID-19 vaccine appointment link led to long lines and frustration outside Dallas’ Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on Saturday, as many were turned away without a valid appointment.

"To me, there’s no excuse for that," Cathy Vernon said. "It's simple math. If you have a certain number of vaccines, you have a certain number of appointments."

City spokesperson Roxana Rubio said in a statement Monday evening about 250 people had already been contacted to reschedule and the rest would be contacted on Tuesday.

Problems with people receiving an appointment link and then forwarding it to friends and family have plagued Dallas County, and now the city of Dallas', vaccination process.

Kathy Vickers said she and her mother were turned away Saturday night after they were told their appointment paperwork was not valid.

Vickers said she did not realize she had done anything wrong.

"Even though I filled out a form and had an email saying I was good to go, I had everything they asked for and still they said we weren't in the system and turned me away," Vickers said. "They put a big fat zero on my window up here."

In a written statement Sunday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson acknowledged the link-sharing issue and said he was "frustrated by the long delays and confusion" at the vaccination center Saturday.

"We also knew we would have some challenges, especially as the very limited supply has created a massive pent-up demand that nobody is able to meet right now," Johnson said in the statement. "But we are responsible and accountable for our issues, and we are working hard to solve them. I have heard from many of those affected yesterday, and to them, I want to say we are sorry, and we will do better.”

In his statement, Johnson said Saturday's process was a "different operation" than the first two days, which he said ran "fairly smoothly."

Tristan Hallman, the mayor's chief of policy and communications, said the city began to hear about the long wait times later in the afternoon. Johnson had visited the vaccination center Saturday morning with U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas).

"While we were there, we could see that the hub was more packed than it had been on previous days, but they were also attempting to get twice the number of people through," Hallman said.

To try to resolve some of the issues, Hallman said the city will begin the vaccination process Tuesday, two days earlier than this week. The city has been allocated another 4,875 doses of vaccine for the upcoming week.

The city will begin a new partnership with Methodist Hospital is aimed at improving and expanding vaccination capabilities.

He said the city was also working with Dallas County on the link-sharing issue, which the county has also encountered. County Judge Clay Jenkins announced a new QR code system Thursday to help resolve the appointment problem.

Want to Get on a Vaccine Waitlist?

As the state begins to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines for those in Phase 1A and 1B, county health departments have begun waitlists for those wish to be inoculated.

You can now register to recieve the vaccination in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Links are below:

Waitlist Links: Collin - Search Waitlist | Dallas | Denton | Tarrant

You do not need to be a resident of the county to register for a COVID-19 vaccine in that county -- registration is open to anyone in Texas. For those without internet access, Tarrant County is also taking registrations by phone at 817-248-6299. In Dallas County, call the DCHHS vaccine hotline at 1-855-IMMUNE9 (1-855-466-8639). In Denton County, call 940-349-2585.

For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group in Texas, see this page from the Texas DSHS.

City spokeswoman Roxana Rubio said 30% of people who arrived at the drive-thru facility on Saturday were turned away either because they had registered off a forwarded link, found the link in another way rather than direct communication from the city, or did not meet eligibility criteria to be vaccinated.

Rubio stressed once people register on the Dallas County waitlist, they would be notified directly by the city if they have an appointment to get a vaccine.

If they secure an appointment any other way, they will be not be allowed to receive a vaccine, said Rubio.

Martha Pickett shared photos from the beginning of her journey around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday until she finally received a vaccine at 7 p.m. She said the lack of information outside the center was frustrating.

She encouraged anyone with an appointment at the convention center to fill up their vehicle with a full tank of gas.

Pickett said once inside the facility, the vaccination process moved smoothly and praised the efforts of first responders helping vaccinate people.

Cathy Vernon said she was still waiting for the city of Dallas to reschedule her mother's vaccine appointment but said she no longer trusts their process and worries they'll be left waiting again.

"I don't understand why other cities have been able to better manage it than Dallas," Vernon said. "It just could have been handled so much better."

The city said there was more traffic around the center on Saturday due to an increased demand for weekend appointment times, along with people showing up early or those without an appointment.

Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows where COVID-19 vaccines have been sent around the state. Click on a marker to find out information about each location. Use the "plus" and "minus" signs below to zoom in and out of the map.

From the Texas DSHS: Availability of COVID-19 vaccines lilsted on this map are based on shipping information and reporting to the DSHS directly by facilities. Please contact providers in advance to confirm vaccination location and hours, that they have vaccine on hand and that you are eligible for vaccination at that site. Not all providers are vaccinating the public or people in all priority groups. Vaccine is available at no charge, regardless of insurance status.

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