Halfway through the fifth week of the vaccine rollout in Texas, eligible Austin residents continue to report long waitlists, line cutters and confusion as they try to access shots.
Here are answers to some of your most pressing questions at this stage.
1. Austin Public Health debuted a pre-registration portal for its supply for 12,000 COVID vaccines on Wednesday. Are they any spots left?
APH debuted a pre-registration portal for its remaining doses on Wednesday morning. By 11 a.m., more than 20,000 residents had signed up for appointments, far outnumbering the number of available doses. And the portal was experiencing technical issues because of high demand.
APH is a safety net provider and focused on distributing its vaccine supply to the area's most vulnerable residents, including those who are uninsured, who live in poverty and who lack access to transportation as well as communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. APH encourages people with private insurance to contact their primary care provider about being vaccinated.
The Texas Department of State Health Services allocated 12,000 doses to APH as part of this week's allocation. By Tuesday, APH had administered around 4,000 of those doses to individuals in group 1A, which includes frontline healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and first responders, and some in group 1B, which includes people 65 years of age and older and those with a chronic medical condition.
Until the state distributes more doses to APH, those on the waitlist will have to be patient, local public health officials said.
2. How is APH ensuring that those getting vaccinated are eligible members of the priority groups?
APH is relying on residents to determine their own eligibility for the vaccine at this stage and to be truthful in their pursuit of a shot.
"We can't check a blood sugar (level) on someone to prove that they have diabetes," EMS System Deputy Medical Director Dr. Jason Pickett said.
Local public health officials pleaded with the public to respect the priority groups and not jump ahead in the line.
"We're asking people to follow the rules and follow the strategy," APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said.
3. Where else can I get vaccinated in Austin?
In addition to APH, seven local providers are offering updates or waitlists for future allotments. But generally most facilities that have received vaccines from the state, at this stage, have already administered them or have reserved any remaining doses for existing high-priority patients.
- 38th Street Pharmacy, 711 W. 38th St., Ste. C3
This local pharmacy will contact those who sign up for its Covid-19 Vaccine Contact List as its supply is replenished.
- Austin Regional Clinic, multiple locations
This private medical group offers a Covid Vaccination Request Form for non-ARC patients in groups 1A and 1B who wish to request a shot.
- Baylor Scott & White Health, multiple locations
Sign up for COVID-19 vaccine updates from BSW Health, one of the three hospital systems operating in the Austin metro, here.
- H-E-B Pharmacy, multiple locations
Twenty-two H-E-B pharmacies in Travis County have received COVID-19 vaccine allotments so far. Although the San Antonio-based grocery store chain is not currently allowing eligible residents to make appointments, it will provide updates on its vaccine supply here.
- Lamar Plaza Drug Store, 1509 S. Lamar Blvd., Ste. 550
This local pharmacy will contact those who sign up for its COVID-19 Vaccine Interest Form with more information as it becomes available.
- Randalls Pharmacy, multiple locations
Residents interested in signing up for COVID vaccine updates from this grocery store chain can sign up for updates here.
- Tarrytown Pharmacy, 2727 Exposition Blvd., Ste. 105
This local pharmacy has compiled a communication list so it can alert members when its vaccine supply is refilled.
4. Austin residents are posting on social media about getting vaccinated even though they are not eligible members of priority groups. Is this happening?
Last week, Austin Regional Clinic confirmed that it had administered a "handful" of vaccine doses to people who were not members of the priority groups. To prevent this from happening, ARC now requires an appointment.
On Tuesday, APH vaccinated some individuals who were not members of the priority groups and, having heard about the distribution event from friends or through social media, showed up. The department vaccinated them to avoid wasting doses and "as a common courtesy," Director Stephanie Hayden said.
As a result, APH will no longer administer vaccines to individuals without an appointment. "This is a message for anyone who is going to show up there today anticipating they will get a vaccine."
Despite these safeguards, there will likely continue to be individuals who are able to cut the line, so to speak, during the vaccine rollout.
"The absolute priority for every vaccine provider is: Don't waste vaccine," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said, adding that there will continue to be small numbers of non-priority individuals who are able to access shots. "I think we have to have some forgiveness for groups that are trying to do the right thing."
5. What are the next steps in the statewide vaccine rollout?
Vaccine providers, such as APH, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies, rely on allocations from the state.
DSHS expects its allocation supply to increase starting next week. Up until now, the state has been required to set aside a certain number of doses for long-term care facilities. With this obligation fulfilled—and more than 7,000 long-term care residents vaccinated at more than 40 area facilities—DSHS anticipates it will have about 121,000 more doses to distribute across the state next week.
For those counting, this represents about a 60% increase over the number of vaccines distributed statewide this week.
The state has also shifted its vaccine distribution strategy to focus on large-scale hubs, as opposed to smaller facilities, such as private practices and freestanding ERs. APH was the only facility in Travis County to receive an allocation this week, and local public health officials say they are prepared to set up mass distribution events, including drive-thrus, as more vaccine becomes available.
Twenty-two H-E-B pharmacies in Travis County have received vaccine allocations so far, although the San Antonio-based grocery chain is no longer accepting appointments. Once the state allocates more doses, however, it could administer as many as 4,000 doses each day, Escott said.
6. Are public health officials concerned about people opting out of getting vaccinated?
"We do have substantial concerns about that," Pickett said, citing misinformation and conspiracy theories that are being spread on social media and contributing to vaccine hesitancy among Austin residents.
"I understand there is a lot of concern about the vaccine," he said. "What I can say is that the negative effects of the virus itself are far worse than the negative effects of vaccine that we've seen.
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Multiple Austin medical sources identify pediatrician Lindley Dodson as the victim in last night's hostage killing at Children's Medical Group.
The second person dead has not been identified but is said to be the alleged shooter, another physician, who did not work at the practice.
Austin physicians are already rallying around the late Dr. Dodson's memory, planning a candlelight vigil, assistance for her husband and children, and staffing for her pediatrics practice.
Dr. Dodson was a long-time Austin area physician who joined Children's Medical Group in 2017.
In 2019, she was named by Texas Super Doctors as one of the top pediatricians in Texas. According to the TSD website, she was also featured in the 2020 selection.
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2 dead in late night Austin medical office hostage situation—pediatrician said to be one of the victims
Two have been pronounced dead by police after a six-hour hostage situation Tuesday evening at Children's Medical Group practice, just off Mopac at 35th Street.
At around 4 p.m., Austin police and SWAT were present at the doctor's office where multiple hostages, not identified, were held.
The Austin Police Department sent a robot unit into the building, which helped officers identify a victim through the camera on the robot. The SWAT team then entered the building and found two dead.
A pediatrician in the medical practice is said to be one of the victims, while the second person found dead is said to be the shooter. Neither has been identified by police.
Police are holding a press conference about the incident at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.