HOUSTON – People who are supposed to get their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine will soon be able to schedule that appointment themselves.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that the city’s Health Department has received nearly 42,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine with nearly 34,000 of them having been administered. He said about 18,600 second doses have been received with 2,300 of those having been administered. He said nearly 12,000 people have appointments to get their second dose this week.

Turner said the Houston Health Department is currently contacting people directly to schedule their second dose. He said that people should give the Health Department until at least 48 hours before their second dose is due before they call the city’s call center to inquire about an appointment.

Stephen Williams, director of the Health Department, said a link will be announced soon that will allow people to be able to schedule their second dose themselves.

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Dr. David Persse, the city’s chief medical officer, reminded people that the recommended 28 days is not a hard-and-fast rule. However, he said the second dose is necessary to get the full benefits of the vaccine.

“It is the purpose of the second dose to drive home the immunity within your system and, in fact, to develop those B-cells and the T-memory-cells that will give you long-term immunity,” Persse said.

Turner said the city is planning more community-based vaccine clinics in order to ensure an equitable distribution of the shots.

A partnership with Hope Clinic in Alief led to 500 people getting their first dose over the weekend, Turner said. He said another clinic is planned somewhere in the northeast Houston area soon, but details are still being finalized.

“It’s just closer for people to get to it,” Turner said. “We have to recognize that there are a lot of people who are transportation challenged.”

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Williams said that while the small-scale efforts are important to equity in the distribution, mass-vaccine clinics are still vital to the overall distribution strategy.

“They’re good for seeing large numbers of people, and we need to keep those sites up because if we don’t really vaccinate large numbers of people, we will lose access to vaccine,” Williams said. “At the same time, we need to make sure that certain communities are not locked out of that system.”

Persse said that both the rate of hospitalizations and the positivity rate have leveled off and there may even be some slight decreases. He said people should still keep their guard up and observe all the coronavirus guidelines urged by health officials: wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others and get tested.

You can watch a replay of Turner’s news conference below:

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