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(H-E-B)

Austin Public Health will open up vaccine appointments to pre-registrants who are 40 and older starting Monday evening.


APH will release appointments in two batches: an early bird release on Monday morning through 10 a.m. that is only open to those in the 1A, 1B and 1C priority groups as well as educators and childcare providers, and then a regular release from 6-10 p.m. for those groups plus any pre-registrants 40 and older.

If there are additional appointments left over, the department will hold another regular release on Thursday evening from 6-10 p.m., following its normal schedule.

APH will receive 13,000 first doses this week, a slight increase from its regular 12,000-dose allocation.

Although the Texas Department of State Health Services expanded eligibility to all residents 16 and older last week, APH restricted its appointments to those in priority groups during its regular appointment drops last week, citing limited supply.

"We have to remember that there are many, many more people who want the vaccine than we have vaccine to give," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said during a press conference Friday. "Once we have an indication that the line is shortened enough for us to open it to other individuals through Austin Public Health, we will do that."

APH registrants ages 16 to 39 who do not qualify as members of priority groups—because of a chronic medical condition or a job as a teacher, for example—will not be able to make an appointment through the department this week. APH recommends that they look to make an appointment at other local providers that have expanded eligibility in line with the state's guidelines.

Since debuting its online pre-registration system in January, APH has seen its virtual waiting system overwhelmed with hopeful vaccine recipients. Last week, however, the department reported an empty virtual waiting room at points during its Monday and Thursday releases.

Despite this apparent dip in demand, APH also reports that more than a quarter of a million registrants fall in the priority groups and are still waiting on an appointment. As a result, the department will be doing further outreach to these accounts to fill available slots and incrementally expanding eligibility, including to the 40 and older group.

Still, some Austinites feel APH should expand eligibility further. "People signed up at multiple locations," one Twitter user responded to a recent update from APH. "Are you prepared to keep everyone else waiting while you do outreach to 258k?"

Many of the registrants who are currently eligible to receive a dose through APH may have made an appointment at another provider. To streamline its system, APH now allows users to report if they have already received a vaccine elsewhere and no longer require an appointment through the department. Registrants who fall in this category can log into the APH system here and, under "My Vaccinations," click on the link that says "I already received my 1st and/or 2nd vaccine dose from another provider," which will direct them to complete a form.

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