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More people than vaccines for groups 1A and 1B as more than half the population is 'priority'

Medic Garrett Evins administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a healthcare worker on Jan 14. (Jordan Vonderhaar)

Those who qualify for vaccination—healthcare workers, first responders, people 65 years of age or older and those with a preexisting medical condition—make up more than half of the Travis County population, an Austonia analysis determined.

But vaccinating more than 500,000 people hasn't been easy. Two months into the COVID-19 rollout, most Austinites in groups 1A and 1B remain stuck on waitlists and frustrated by the lack of clarity. The reason for this is simple: there are way fewer vaccines available than the number of people eligible to receive them.


Area providers have only received 119,025 initial doses through this week, or enough to vaccinate around 23% of eligible residents. This leaves three in four members of groups 1A and 1B in limbo, waiting on future allocations of the vaccine to arrive.

Here's how the numbers break down:

There are an estimated 1,016,909 Travis County residents who are 16 years of age and older, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Pfizer vaccine received an emergency use authorization from the FDA for its COVID vaccine in people 16 years of age and older, the Moderna one for people who are at least 18 years old.

DSHS estimates that, within the county population, 80,894 people fall into the 1A group and 468,769 fall into the 1B group.

Travis County has received, on average, 14,487.5 initial doses of the COVID vaccine from DSHS each week for the last seven weeks. At this rate, it will take another 40 weeks—or around 10 months—to vaccinate everyone in the 1A and 1B groups.

However, there are some reasons to believe this process will move more quickly.

Local, state and federal public health officials expect the FDA to issue emergency use authorizations for two more COVID-19 vaccines—from the pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson—by March, which would increase the supply available for distribution.

And although we're a long way off from achieving the 70% to 75% threshold needed for herd immunity with just 8% of the county population vaccinated, we may start to see outsized benefits by focusing on the most vulnerable populations.

"As we gain herd immunity within those age groups, we start to see the threat of overwhelming our healthcare system dissipate very quickly," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said last week.

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