Dallas sees surge in demand for COVID-19 vaccine registration

Hundreds of people lined up in Oak Cliff Friday to register for an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

It highlights the confusion about how to reach the most vulnerable communities.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the state will be giving 5,000 vaccines directly to the city of Dallas.

"We are jumping in as a city to do everything we can to assist," Johnson said.

The city plans to distribute its vaccines in a drive-up method at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to people with appointments through the county's site.

It comes as the mayor, some council members, and county officials have squabbled over the vaccine rollout in Dallas.

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City officials said the added site could be even more beneficial in the future, once more vaccine doses are available.

"By opening up an additional site, we position ourselves to be able to vaccinate more people when more vaccines are available," said Rocky Vaz, Dallas Emergency Management coordinator.

Even though Dallas County has a website where anyone can help people register for the vaccine, it’s clear thousands are in need of help with the registration process.

Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia helped explain the registration process at a quickly-arranged vaccination hub at Jerry's Supermarket in Oak Cliff.

Councilman Chad West arranged for volunteers to register people at the location based on concerns that communities of color were underrepresented at the Fair Park site.

"We had no idea it would be this level of need," he said.

He and others have been pushing for vaccine registration hubs like the one at Jerry's Supermarket.

"These are folks, they don’t have good internet at home, they are a little older, they are nervous about making sure they don’t mess up the registration because they want to be in the system the right way," West added.

There will be another event on Saturday to help get people registered for vaccines in Dallas County.

It will be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Bishop Barber and Babes in the 500 block of Jefferson Avenue.

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West, along with council members Adam Bazaldua and Paula Blackmon, called a special meeting Monday to clarify exactly what the city's plans are to administer the vaccinations.

Several council members are at odds with the mayor over who should have authority to set up registration hubs.

"Will we coordinate with county? How will the mayor determine who will get the shots? Will we use the same method the county uses?" questioned West. "That needs to be communicated to us as council members. We have to answer to our constituents."

Ahead of that meeting, Mayor Johnson said on Friday that the city will use the county's vaccination website to offer appointments to people who are at highest risk.

"When it comes to managing, we will ensure it is transparent and equitable. We have to prepare for if systems fail," Johnson said. "We will rely on facts and science and CDC guidelines. Not politics or relationships with a pastor. It won’t be, ‘I will tell Democrats and not Republicans.’"

The mayor's comments related to how the county handled the vaccinations last week when the appointment system failed.

"When we had hiccups, it was not done in a way that was transparent, whether in private meetings with high-ranking folks," Johnson said. "The general public did not know. That can't happen."

The mayor said he did not see the need for Monday’s special meeting called by councilmembers.