After racing for a first dose of the vaccine, some Austinites find themselves in the same situation for their second shot
Westlake-area resident Joan Skerry said she and her sister were excited to receive their first Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at a First Medical Response of Texas pop-up clinic on Jan. 2, held in the Dripping Springs Fire Department's parking lot. However, when their second shot deadline came and went last Saturday, Skerry feared the two would have to start the vaccine regimen anew.
Due to a misunderstanding about saving part of their vaccine allotment for the second booster shot the vaccine process requires, First Medical used up all of its shipment on first vaccines and didn't have any more doses left for the second round, co-owner Edwin Reyes told Austonia.
Edwin Reyes, owner of First Medical Response in front of his operations trailer, last month. (Jordan Vonderhaar)
Almost a week overdue, Skerry's sister managed to get a second vaccine elsewhere before Ascension Seton contacted her with a slot that she gave to Skerry. Both qualify as 1B recipients—consisting of older individuals and those with chronic health conditions—for the vaccine, the second phase in the distribution effort designated by the Texas Department of State Health Services after first responders and healthcare workers in group 1A. Skerry is 72 years old and her sister is 66 years old.
"I was so relieved when (Seton) called me that I started crying—not my usual behavior," Skerry said of the news that she would receive a booster shot. "So my story has a happy ending."
First Medical worked with government officials and state representatives to finally secure the 1,800 vaccines needed to provide those first vaccine recipients with their second vaccines, scheduling a clinic Friday for distribution, Reyes said.
However, some residents aren't so lucky and are still on the hunt for a second dose, including those who received an initial dose from clinics that were able to extract 11 doses from a vial allocated for 10 doses. There's no assurance they can take out extra doses to coordinate with those individuals who received the "extra" doses the first time.
Jeffrey Warnken, pharmacist and co-owner of 38th Street Pharmacy, is one of those providers. He drafted a second dose waitlist that contains 25 to 30 individuals qualified under 1A or 1B as of Feb. 3.
Pharmacist/Co-owner Jeff Warnken (38th Street Pharmacy)
Warnken said his pharmacy recently administered seven first doses to people with the understanding that they could not be assured of receiving a second dose from his facility. He thinks finding second doses will continue to be a problem until more vaccines become available.
"Instead of wasting it, it's better to give somebody a first dose with the possibility of not giving them their second dose because a half is better than zero," he said, adding that a single dose provides some immunity to the disease although the extent of that immunity is unknown. The protection from a single Moderna COVID-19 vaccine dose could range from 50% to 80% immunity after four weeks, Warnken said.
He's hopeful the pharmacy will get more vaccines in, especially with President Joe Biden's plan for the federal government to distribute vaccines directly to retail pharmacies like his facility.
Tarrytown Pharmacy's Pharmacist-in-Charge Rannon Ching also maintains a 1,300-name second dose waitlist for individuals looking for a Moderna booster. Because some individuals were able to find their first shot at independent locations, the opening of larger vaccine hubs have stranded those vaccinated by smaller sites that, as with Ching, haven't received additional doses in weeks.
Pharmacist-in-Charge Rannon Ching (Tarrytown Pharmacy)
He said he views those who aren't matched with a second dose fighting for that booster along with everyone else in the fight for a vaccine.
"The good thing about second doses is, once you give them, that's it and you don't have to coordinate for another dose," Ching said. "Second doses lend themselves well to those extra doses we pull out of the vial because those aren't accounted for and won't be accounted for to get second doses four weeks later."
His waitlist also includes individuals who want to make sure they have a "backup plan" in case something happens to their designated second vaccine and recommended first vaccine recipients return to their initial provider for the booster.
Austinite Leslie Lindzey, who received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 14 at Austin ISD's Delco Activity Center, isn't sure if she should pursue other options for her second dose. As of Feb. 4, she hadn't received word on scheduling her booster.
Although the vaccine hub isn't giving out second doses to individuals who didn't have their first vaccine through Austin Public Health, spokesperson Jen Samp said the department will be reaching out to first vaccine recipients for their second dose. As of Feb. 3, she said APH was waiting on news from DSHS regarding the second doses.
"We don't want to contact folks if we don't have the vaccine," Semp said about the second doses. "Once we secure the vaccine, we'll be contacting (them)."
On Jan. 21, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommended interval for the two Moderna vaccines to include the scheduling of a second dose to be administered up to 42 days following the first dose if it isn't feasible to be timed at its recommendation of 28 days.
"The 28 days is not a deadline," Samp said. "It is merely an expectation that you should wait at least that amount of time before you get your second one."With the two-dose Moderna vaccine and similar Pfizer vaccine in distribution, pharmaceutical maker Johnson & Johnson submitted an application Thursday to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requesting Emergency Use Authorization for a new single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. The company stated in a news release that it expects to be able to ship that vaccine immediately after it is approved. Maybe that will end the two-dose conundrum?
More on the vaccine:
- Austin healthcare offering COVID-19 vaccine waitlists - austonia ›
- A 'handful' of ineligible people got the COVID vaccine in Austin ... ›
- Freestanding ERs receive COVID vaccine after hospital ERs - austonia ›
- UT professor played role in Pfizer and Moderna's COVID vaccines ... ›
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- Testing sites close, vaccine appointments stay on track despite cold - austonia ›
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- Travis County among most at-risk counties for vaccine shortage - austonia ›
- With cases down, Austin could lift restrictions to Stage 3 - austonia ›
- Volunteers create "scraper" bots to find vaccines fast - austonia ›
- How to make your second COVID vaccine appointment in Austin - austonia ›
- All Texas adults will be able to get a vaccine next week - austonia ›
- FDA approves Pfizer COVID shots for 12-15 year olds - austonia ›
- APH, Austin clinics begin administering all COVID boosters per CDC announcement - austonia ›
🗓 All weekend
Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities
All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park
This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.
6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.
10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park
Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.
Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.
11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway
Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.
As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.
“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”
Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.
“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”
Actually, a purr-fect idea.
Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.
At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”
Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.
“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”
Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.
“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”
Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.
“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”
Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.
“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”
And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.
“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”
Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.
“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”