The County Connection

Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

Most everyone has had an experience with trying to get a COVID-19 vaccination within the past few weeks — whether for themselves, for a friend, or an elderly relative. And extremely limited vaccine supply made available via random drops announced at the last minute has rendered getting a vaccine appointment — a matter of literal life or death to many — next to impossible. 
Registering for a vaccine shouldn’t depend on who has the fastest internet connection or who can hit refresh on a browser the fastest. It shouldn’t be about who has the best insider information about when and where vaccine registration will happen. And it definitely shouldn’t be about who has the most free time to sign up while those who work long hours must resign themselves to being locked out completely. That is why, like in everything we do to fight COVID-19, I have instructed our agencies to build Harris County’s vaccine registration system through the lens of efficiency, fairness, and equity.
Last week, Harris County Public Health (HCPH) launched a new COVID-19 Vaccination Portal for residents to sign up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as more supply becomes available. In order to ensure fair access for elderly residents, working families, and vulnerable populations, registrants on the waitlist are not selected on a first come first served basis. Rather, the portal employs a “smart waitlist” system for residents who want a vaccine. Vaccine recipients are selected from the waitlist through a randomization and prioritization process each time we receive a shipment (more info on that and how to register below).
To be clear, this new process does not mean we’ve received an abundant amount of vaccine for all of our residents. Vaccine supply continues to be extremely limited and new deliveries are unpredictable. The process of vaccinating Harris County residents will last many months and likely extend through the summer. I cannot tell you how long it will take for those on this waitlist to be contacted for an appointment, but I can promise that, moving forward, we will continue to apply this same lens of efficiency, fairness, and equity to every part of this process. So far, Harris County Public Health has administered over 30,000 vaccines, each within just days of receiving a shipment.
With an undertaking this large, no system we create will be perfect. I appreciate your understanding and patience as we work to support vaccination efforts in our community. Keep wearing those masks, social distancing, and avoiding gatherings. Vaccinations and eventual herd immunity will take time, but we are moving in the right direction and the finish line is finally coming into sight. Let’s make it across having saved as many lives as possible.


Lina Hidalgo

County News

Harris County Public Health Expands Vaccine Registration Process with New COVID-19 Vaccination Portal

On January 26th, Harris County Public Health (HCPH) launched a new COVID-19
Vaccination Portal for residents who meet the Texas Department of State Health Services(DSHS) criteria for receiving a vaccine. The portal allows individuals to be placed on a waitlist and contacted once vaccines and appointments are available. Eligible residents without internet access can also call (832) 927-8787 to be placed on the waitlist. The call line is available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Harris County’s new “Smart Waitlist” system does not use a first-come, first-served process for allocating vaccines. In order to ensure fair access for elderly residents, working families, and vulnerable populations, registrants on the waitlist are instead selected through a prioritization and randomization process in accordance with state guidelines. Only individuals who fall under the DSHS Phase 1A and 1B category are eligible to receive the vaccine at this stage. Those who are not qualified to receive the vaccine under 1A or 1B are able to be placed on the waitlist but will not be contacted to schedule an appointment until the State of Texas expands eligibility beyond 1A and 1B, likely not until the Spring or Summer.
Priority phases:
  • Phase 1A: Individuals in Phase 1A who register for the waitlist are prioritized before those in Phase 1B to ensure everyone in Phase 1A has an opportunity to receive the vaccine. Within Phase 1A, individuals are selected at random from the following age cohorts, with oldest cohorts prioritized first: 75+, 65-74, 55-64, 45-54, 35-44, 25-34, 18-24.
  • Phase 1B: Individuals in Phase 1B who register for the wait list are selected at random from the following age cohorts, with oldest cohorts prioritized first: 75+, 65-74, 55-64, 45-54, 35-44, 25-34, 18-24.
  • Future Phases: Individuals who are not qualified to receive the vaccine under Phases 1A or 1B are able to register for the waitlist. However, they will not be contacted to schedule an appointment until the Texas DSHS expands eligibility beyond Phases 1A and 1B.
Once individuals are selected to receive a vaccine, they are provided a link with instructions on how to select a location and time to get vaccinated at a HCPH site.
In addition to the new registration portal, HCPH has launched a COVID-19 Vaccine Data Hub. The Data Hub shows vaccine availability, distribution, and other demographic data. More information about COVID-19 vaccines is available at or

Participate in the Stay Smart, Do Your Part Campaign to Share Information on COVID-19

Harris County Public Health wants to ensure that all Harris County residents, particularly those in vulnerable communities, are fully informed about what they can do to help us beat this virus — staying home, canceling gatherings, getting tested, and getting vaccinated. And while demand for COVID-19 vaccines continues to far outpace supply, we know that many residents may be hesitant about the efficacy and safety of vaccines once they are more broadly available. To share correct, life-saving information about the virus and the vaccine, we would like to invite you to participate in the new
Stay Smart, Do Your Part campaign. Stay Smart, Do Your Part is intended to recruit community messengers to share evidence-based information to ensure our communities –- particularly vulnerable communities -– feel empowered to act.   
Please visit the campaign website for a toolkit, available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, that contains the latest information on vaccines, including Frequently Asked Questions and myths and facts about the vaccine. You can also click here for a one-pager on the Harris County registration process to receive the vaccine. Please stay tuned for more information and products, such as social media content and public service announcements, to share in the coming weeks.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Provides an Update on County Progress to Ramp Up Environmental Monitoring and Enforcement

Since the Intercontinental Terminals Co (ITC) fire on March 17, 2019, Harris County has undertaken historic steps to modernize the county’s ability to protect the environment and enable a proactive response to threats to public health and safety. These actions, which represent the biggest investments in environmental protection in more than 30 years, follow decades of systemic underfunding and neglect of key county departments and services that protect residents against environmental hazards. On January 28th, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo joined Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia to provide an update on actions the county has taken over the past two years to enhance environmental monitoring and enforcement.
“We are committed to addressing the root causes of repeated incidents that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations who live in the shadow of industry,” Judge Hidalgo said. “All families, regardless of zip code, should be able to raise their children without fear of explosions and the spillover effect of poor air quality. The steps we’ve taken are charting the course for long-overdue change, but it will take a sustained effort of working together, across disciplines and industries, to reverse the damage of decades of underinvestment.”
Since March 2019, Harris County has invested in vigorous environmental monitoring and enforcement, with more than $11 million allocated towards improving our preparedness and response to chemical incidents. The County added emergency response workers, chemists, and field investigators to the pollution control department, and doubled the size of the County HazMat team. To hold polluters accountable, the County increased its capacity to pursue legal actions. Also, following the findings of a gap analysis, Judge Hidalgo directed agencies to improve monitoring and information sharing. Most recently, a partnership between Harris County, the research nonprofit Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), and private industry will add 5 air monitors to the county’s existing fixed, 24/7 air monitoring network, and dozens of handheld air monitors for emergency response.

Harris County Approves $54 Million for More Secure and Accessible Voting Equipment

Last month, Harris County Commissioner’s Court approved funding of up to $54 million for new voting machines to make the voting process in Harris County more efficient and secure. The new machines will use a paper-backed system which produces a physical, paper record of every vote, as well as the electronic ballot, making for easier auditing if necessary. For added security, the new machines will only accept and read paper ballots with unique barcodes. The size and weight of the new machines will allow for easier transport and set-up of polling locations, and each machine is compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Keep your eyes peeled — the new machines could make their debut at Harris County polling places as early as May 2021! For more information on how to vote in Harris County, visit

Harris County Establishes Regulations for Boarding Houses for the Elderly and Disabled

A 2019 fire in midtown Houston brought to light the fact that many seniors and persons with disabilities in our community who cannot afford better accommodations rent small rooms in boarding houses. These boarding houses tend to be operated by property owners with no special training in caring for the elderly or disabled and, because the boarding houses are almost completely unregulated, who have no incentive to keep their properties up to code. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court took a huge step toward protecting these vulnerable residents by becoming the first county in Texas to approve the implementation of regulations that will tighten the oversight of these boarding houses. New regulations will allow Harris County to oversee permits requiring background checks for owners, operators, and volunteers, housing standards, fire/kitchen inspections and more.

Take the Harris County Housing Survey to Share What Home Means to You

What does home mean to you? Share your thoughts by participating in the Harris County Housing Survey through the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University and help inform efforts to improve housing and housing affordability across Harris County. The survey asks questions about what you value in a safe, affordable home, and takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Visit to take the survey now.

Upcoming Events

Hazardous Waste Collection Appointments

Do you have unwanted household hazardous items? Properly dispose of them by making an appointment with the Household Hazardous Waste Collections facility at 6900 Hahl Road in Houston. Appointments are available each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and during the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Learn what items are accepted and make an appointment here.

Upcoming Commissioners Court Meetings

As part of the County Judge’s Office initiative to make local government more transparent and accessible, we invite you to get involved by viewing Commissioners Court meetings. You can check here to see the meeting schedule, and watch the official close captioned livestream here or on the Judge’s homepage here.

Upcoming Flood Control Bond Project Meetings

Harris County never stops preparing for the next big storm. And while the 2018 Harris County Flood Control District Bond Program is in full swing, we continue to seek input from community members as we implement projects in watersheds across the County. If you have a comment about a particular project, we invite you to attend the corresponding virtual meeting and be part of the planning process. Learn more about upcoming 2018 Bond Program Community Engagement Meetings here.

About Judge Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is the head of Harris County’s governing body and Director of the Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Judge Hidalgo, alongside four County Precinct Commissioners, oversees a budget of approximately $5 billion that funds services and institutions for the third-largest county in the nation, home to nearly 5 million people.
For more information about Harris County and the Office of the County Judge, click here.