In this July 27, 2020, file photo, a nurse prepares a shot as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y. The U.S. is poised to give the green light as early as Friday, Dec. 18, to a second COVID-19 vaccine, a critical new weapon against the surging coronavirus. Doses of the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health will give a much-needed boost to supplies as the biggest vaccination effort in the nation’s history continues. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Mayor Sylvester Turner has authorized the Houston Health Department to open the city’s first free COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Saturday, Jan. 2. The clinic will expand vaccine access to the general public at high risk of severe illness and death from coronavirus disease.

Those seeking to take advantage of the clinic and receive the Moderna vaccine will need to make an appointment by calling the health department’s COVID-19 call center at 832-393-4220 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. beginning Saturday, Jan. 2.

According to the Mayor’s Office, the call center will provide the location and appointment time for each person who registers to be vaccinated. Houston Health Department staff will screen people when they first drive into the clinic premises, direct them to a secure area to receive the vaccination, and monitor them for any adverse reaction for 15 minutes.

The State of Texas’ Phase 1B distribution plan prioritizes people 65 and older and people 16 and older who have at least one chronic medical condition, putting them at increased risk. Per the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for persons 16 years of age and older in the U.S. population under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization.

“We are working efficiently to vaccinate eligible frontline employees and vulnerable Houstonians,” said Mayor Turner. “The virus has taken a toll, especially among the elderly and Black and Brown communities. The vaccine is our best shot to help prevent people from getting sick and potentially suffering severe consequences.”

Medical conditions placing people at high risk include cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart conditions, solid organ transplantation, obesity and severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease and type 2 diabetes.

Frontline healthcare workers are also eligible for vaccination as part of the Phase 1A distribution that began in mid-December.

People who meet the Phase 1A or 1B criteria are eligible to register to receive the free vaccine by appointment from the health department at the Saturday mass clinic.

The health department received its first allotment of 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and started administering it on December 28.

The Houston Health Department will announce additional free vaccination opportunities as supply increases.

Many medical providers offer a vaccine based on availability. People who qualify should contact their medical provider or use the Texas Department of State Health Services’ online map to find and call vaccine providers.

Information about COVID-19 vaccines, including safety and efficacy, is available at the HoustonEmergency.org/covid19.