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 #UnionStrong https://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:
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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