When Holly, 33, received her first COVID-19 vaccine dose on Jan. 23, she felt conflicted. Although she was eligible because of her job at a mental health clinic and is diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that puts her at higher risk for blood clots, she told Austonia, "I still had some guilt." She added that she was able to make an appointment before either her parents or her mother-in-law, who is unwell. "There was a gap in the overall system."
Holly, who asked to use a pseudonym, also kept her immunization status mostly private. She is involved in a holistic wellness community, where many members are anti-vaccine. She was, too, until recently, when she decided that any risks of getting vaccinated were outweighed by the risks of contracting a severe case of COVID. "I felt like there was some judgment around if I got the vaccine," she said. "And I just haven't wanted to open myself up to having to justify myself."
So-called vaccine guilt is a common experience among recipients given the limited availability of doses across Texas and the nation. It may become even more so on Monday, when the state will expand vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 and older. Amid this change, vaccine providers will still be asked to prioritize the elderly, who are especially high-risk and may have difficulty navigating the online registration process.
The Texas Department of State Health Services expects to receive an increased number of vaccine doses next week, which it cited as one reason for expanding eligibility. But supply remains limited. Midway through week 15 of the rollout, 292,161 Travis County residents are partially vaccinated and 121,769 are fully vaccinated, representing 28% and nearly 12% of the estimated population 16 and older, respectively, according to DSHS. This leaves around 40% of the currently eligible groups, not including those in the recently added 1C group, unvaccinated.
i got my first covid vaccine today and i almost cried from relief and guilt.💌 sending love to anyone that hasn't been able to get theirs yet. especially to anyone who is also struggling with the fact that our incarcerated and uninsured relatives won't have access to this vaccine
— emi aguilar #𝔟𝔩𝔪 #𝔩𝔞𝔫𝔡𝔟𝔞𝔠𝔨 (@EagleEmii) March 6, 2021
It may also lead some Austinites who will become eligible next week to question whether they should seek out an appointment. "I can see why people feel guilty because I feel guilty," said Christine Mitchell, executive director of the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School. She received a vaccine early in the rollout because of her job, which is in a healthcare field but does not involve direct contact with COVID patients. "And many of us who are vaccinated … feel guilty because it has not been handled well in getting (doses) to grocery workers, for example."
Solidarity with fellow Texan front-line workers in our union family who have once again been excluded by the state from COVID-19 vaccine eligibility.
Without leadership from @POTUS, K-12 school employees would be in the same boat. #1u#UnionStronghttps://t.co/iglwilNMEh
— Texas AFT (@TexasAFT) March 20, 2021
The rollout, which Mitchell called "intensely problematic," has been logistically challenging for many reasons: the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require ultra-cold storage, which limits the number of providers that have the necessary equipment to preserve them; mass distribution events serve more people but may exclude those without a car; online registration systems exacerbate the digital divide; mobile events in rural communities risk wasted doses if not enough people opt in.
It's these issues that have led some to feel guilty about accessing a vaccine that they know remains inaccessible to people at higher risk than themselves. "In an ideal world, what you would like is for everyone ... to be sort of rank-ordered in terms of their risk of dying from COVID and get the vaccine to the people at the top of the list first," said Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
Instead, the rollout has relied on categorization, which means that there is often a spectrum of risk within each group. Wynia urges people who are eligible for the vaccine to seek out an appointment. Not doing so could give the false impression of less demand for doses or higher rates of vaccine hesitancy than actually exist. "Don't neglect to get the vaccine when it's your turn even if you don't think it should be your turn yet," he said.
People who are bothered by this process can act in ways other than forgoing a vaccine. Wynia suggested supporting efforts to hold vaccine clinics in underserved communities, participating in phone-based outreach to people without internet service and volunteering as a vaccine angel.
Volunteered at a vaccine site today. The reward - I got my first shot today!!!
Side note - I walked 10 miles today and my legs are jello!#igotmyshot#soveryhappy#Thankful
— Gerie (@gladams29) March 24, 2021
Although some Austinites may feel that it is too soon to open up vaccine eligibility to the general public, there are benefits to doing so. For one, it will eliminate the guessing game of whether people are eligible or gaming the system. "If you really are jumping the queue and you're ineligible … now you are creating an unfairness," he said.
But both Wynia and Mitchell believe that such cheating is uncommon. "The whole fact that we're having this conversation about vaccine guilt is an indication that a lot of people are so honest about this that they're worried they're taking advantage of a system when they're not even really taking advantage of anything but playing by the rules," Wynia said.
More on what experts are saying:
- Volunteers create "scraper" bots to find vaccines fast - austonia ›
- A 'handful' of ineligible people got the COVID vaccine in Austin ... ›
- Austin vaccine recipients feel relief, guilt amid slow rollout - austonia ›
- Why some Austinites are opting out of the COVID-19 vaccine - austonia ›
As summer temperatures continue to increase, so does Austin's "Party Island"—a hundreds-strong army of kayakers and paddle boarders who gather each weekend in the middle of Lady Bird Lake.
Born from the pandemic, the swarm of paddleboarding partiers has continued to grow each summer and can be seen from the nearby Lamar Boulevard Bridge. And while "Party Island" certainly lives up to one half of its name, it's not actually an island at all: instead, it's located at a shallow sandbar near Lou Neff Point.
With beers, burgers from portable grills and even DJ turntables in hand, more friends and strangers continue to beat the heat in new ways at the distinct Austin hangout.
- Lake Travis party boat operators see high demand after COVID ... ›
- 1 injured after small plane crashes into Lady Bird Lake - austonia ›
- Breath of fresh air: Austinites can't stay away from the party on Lady ... ›
- Photo essay: Austin's 'Party Island' on Lady Bird Lake ›
- Photo story: Austin's 'Party Island' on Lady Bird Lake - austonia ›
If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.