Texas changes vaccine rollout strategy as Austin providers run out of vaccine supply, waitlists grow longer
Nanci Kahn, 64, lives in Hyde Park and works as a registered nurse for a small company. She managed to get herself a vaccine appointment at Austin Regional Clinic after waiting on the phone for an hour. But her husband, who is in group 1B, remains on three waitlists. "He's number 3,000 at one place," Kahn told Austonia. "He's 600 at another."
Jim Duncan, 82, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and atrial fibrillation. He also has eight doctors, none of whom are administering vaccines. As a result, he hasn't been able to get an appointment elsewhere. Although he is "perfectly happy to ensconce himself at home" and agrees with the prioritization of healthcare workers and nursing home residents, he is frustrated.
"It's so critical to have our act together in this, and it doesn't seem like we do," he said.
The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Thursday that it would primarily direct its upcoming weekly allocation of around 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to large providers to establish distribution hubs. As part of this allocation, Austin Public Health will receive 12,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine—the only shipment arriving in Travis County this week.
Previously, DSHS had distributed smaller allocations of the vaccine to a more diverse group of providers, including area hospitals, private practices, community clinics and pharmacies. Many of these facilities are running out of their existing supply, if they have any doses left, and are waiting to hear from the state when they can expect more.
This shift in strategy arrives amid a bumpy rollout. Gov. Greg Abbott said 1.4 million Texans would be vaccinated by the end of 2020; so far, fewer than 800,000 doses have been administered, according to DSHS. In Travis County, 31,044 residents have received their first dose and an additional 3,131 have received the second. Additionally, some providers have administered vaccines to non-priority individuals, and many eligible residents have found themselves on waitlists numbering into the thousands.
Austin Public Health
APH is a safety net provider and has said it will focus its vaccine distribution efforts on eligible members of the area's vulnerable populations. The department has identified vaccine clinic locations in the hardest hit communities and plans to launch a registration system for individuals who meet the state's criteria for groups 1A and 1B, which include:
- Frontline healthcare workers
- Long-term care facility residents
- First responders
- People 65 years of age and older
- People with 16 years of age and older with a chronic medical condition
But APH Director Stephanie Hayden stressed that the vaccine supply remains very limited. "There is an estimated 200,000 residents without traditional health insurance over the age of 16 that may need to be vaccinated by a safety net provider like Austin Public Health," she said in a statement Friday.
APH received 1,300 doses from the state during the first four weeks of the vaccine allocation process.
Regional hospital systems
Baylor Scott & White Health, which is one of three hospital systems in the Austin metro, is continuing to focus its vaccine distribution process on healthcare workers, according to a statement shared with Austonia on Monday. Its Travis County locations received 2,000 doses in late December. St. David's HealthCare is similarly focused on healthcare personnel at this stage, according to its website. Ascension Seton has partnered with some area school districts to vaccinate campus-based staff in the 1B group.
Austin Regional Clinic, whose Travis County locations have received 4,100 doses of the vaccine to date, announced it had exhausted its initial shipment of vaccines on Friday. The private medical group has more than 50,000 patients in the 1B group.
Capital Medical Group, a private practice on West 38th Street, received 500 doses in late December. Most of these were administered to healthcare workers at the clinic or in the community, Dr. James Marroquin told Austonia in an email.
The remainder are being administered to select patients over the age of 75, of which the practice has more than 10,000. This "will likely exhaust our current vaccine supply soon," he added. When the practice receives its next allocation, it will use it to give the second shot to patients who have already received their initial dose.
(Providers that have already received vaccine allotments will receive corresponding second doses, DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen confirmed to Austonia.)
Since DSHS' announcement that it will focus its vaccine distribution in the coming weeks on a handful of pharmacies and hospitals, to create vaccine hubs, Capital Medical Clinic has told patients that they will likely receive a vaccine through one of these hubs rather than from their practice. "In general, we're advising our 1b patients to be on the lookout for where they can (get a) vaccine and to get it if they have the opportunity," Marroquin wrote.
But some providers remain optimistic.
Tarrytown Pharmacy, on Exposition Boulevard, received 500 doses on Dec. 23 and was able to administer all of them within days, Pharmacist-in-Charge Dr. Rannon Ching told Austonia.
He is hopeful the pharmacy will receive more doses next week and beyond for two reasons: 1) this is the last week Texas is required to reserve some of its federally allocated doses for long-term care facilities, meaning more doses will be available to distribute in the coming weeks, and 2) Tarrytown is one of a small number of local providers that has the ultra-cold freezer capacity needed to store the Pfizer vaccine, which "would make us a great candidate to receive more."
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Over a year after they took the stage for the first time in Los Angeles, Austin FC returned to Banc of America Stadium to snatch the No. 1 spot from LAFC in a 2-1 statement win late Wednesday night.
Austin FC, which has flirted with the top spot in the MLS West this season, has now solidly reached the summit just a year after its second-to-last first season finish. The new top dogs are now 7-2-3 overall.
Here's a look at three highlights from the match:
Flashback in LA
For many Austin FC fans and naysayers alike, the match was more than a fight for the MLS West throne: it also served as a symbol of how far the team has come.
The two clubs first met on the Banc of America pitch as Austin FC saw its first game and first loss all at once in a 2-0 battle last April. It was an exciting but shaky start to the club's first season, and the loss seemed to set the tone for the rest of its inaugural year as the club dipped to second to last in the conference.
If Austin's first season was hallmarked by its first match, then its second-year success was foretold by its back-to-back five-goal victories to kick off the season.
Since then, the club has battled its own first-year shadow, claims of "bonus games" and a few unexpected obstacles—both on and off the pitch—but it has almost always come out on top.
That fight to the top was fully realized Wednesday, even as the club played its toughest opponent yet. Even with a man down in the middle due to Daniel Pereira's red card last game, the club kept its cool through even the trickiest moments of the match. Jhojan Valencia, who patched the Pereira hole in midfield, got his first MLS start and first MLS assist as Ruben Gabrielsen scored the first goal of the game.
Gabrielsen came to Austin FC as a potential hero for the team's center back position, but the club's resident Viking has already nabbed two goals in his first season with the team.
"That's center forward material," Austin FC announcer Adrian Healey said as Gabrielsen took control of Valencia's pass, paused to fake out the defense, and calmly tucked the ball into the left corner to complete the first goal of the match.
Even as LAFC dominated possession for much of the match, Austin FC saw another wide-open goal opportunity crumble as midfielder Diego Fagundez's shot hit the corner goalpost in the 23rd minute.
But Fagundez wasn't finished. The midfielder was short on his Verde hair dye but full of surprises as he nimbly sunk a shot over LAFC defense to make it 2-0 with 10 minutes to go.
Fagundez, who has spent more time setting up goals for his teammates (becoming the No. 1 assister in the MLS in the process), finally took the center stage with his second goal this season.
Owen Wolff, head coach Josh Wolff's own son, had a scoring opportunity of his own foiled by the goalpost as he started his first MLS match as one of the youngest starters in the league this season.
But Austin FC wouldn't score again; instead, LAFC powerhouse Carlos Vela made the win a bit trickier in the 86th minute as he got past Austin keeper Brad Stuver to cut the lead in half. The other Wolff quickly subbed in a five-prong defense as the club kept steady for the final 10 painstaking minutes to win the match.
BONUS: Stuver's career-making match
Six saves on the night in LA for Brad Stuver! 🚫 pic.twitter.com/02V6hcUd3Y— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 19, 2022
After two weeks on the bench due to a knee gash, Austin's star keeper Brad Stuver had the Stuver-iest match of all time (yes, we're making it a word) as he pulled off six saves to help his team to No. 1.
Stuver looked like a pinball machine as he pulled off save after save with his feet, hands and body to keep it nearly 100% clean on the back end.
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Lately, the crypto market is looking shaky.
The price of bitcoin fell by more than half from its high, the digital currency luna crashed to $0 and a type of so-called stablecoin TerraUSD has been described as dead.
Reporting from the LA Times notes that experts seeing a correlation between traditional markets and the cryptocurrency market is high right now, with plunges in one being followed by a plunge in the other. On Wednesday, stocks had their worst day in more than two years with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 1,164 points.
Crypto’s volatility has long been questioned, especially after SXSW this year was filled with Web3 enthusiasts and displays.
With 8% of Texans owning Bitcoin and many others involved in the local crypto and Web3 scene, what are they feeling amid the crash?
In a written comment to Austonia, ATX DAO said a positive with the downturn is that “most of the speculative moneygrab type projects get washed out of the market, and the quality projects that deliver real value remain and gather more attention.”
The group went on to say it could work to their advantage as they carry out their latest project: a mural at Native Hostel that will have an NFT version. They’ll use sales toward donations to HOPE Outdoor Gallery, a local nonprofit that supports artists and creatives.
Meanwhile, Yagub Rahimov, a founder of an Austin-based Web3 company explains that they aren’t really impacted by the crash.
Since the company known as Tested Web functions as a Web3 online reputation marketplace, it is utilizing blockchain technology without tokenizing.
“We are a share to earn marketplace. That means that any activity that users have on tested web.com, we will be rewarding,” Rahimov said. “Those rewards are coming in the form of rewards points. And every quarter they can opt in to receive either a gift card or a check. We are not issuing any cryptocurrency. That's one of the important elements that I believe we got it right that way.”
With recent developments at Tested Web, Rahimov says he “couldn’t be happier.” After struggling to find tech talent in early spring, he’s had a hiring spree in the last 10 days and received a $1 million grant and partnership with Silent Notary, a blockchain-powered validation provider.
But his recent business success aside, Rahimov is noticing what’s happening in the markets and predicts that the correlation between the crypto market and traditional one will be broken.
“The way Bitcoin was introduced back in 2009, it was as a reply or response to the 2008 market crash,” Rahimov said. “And it really feels like we are in 2007, 2008, actually, early, early days of the market crash. And if it becomes that way, very likely that the winner is going to be those of decentralized parties.”
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