Austin Public Health on Monday had yet to receive any of the 12,000 second doses of the coronavirus vaccine needed for Austin-Travis County residents this week, leaving some to worry if they would still be protected from the virus if the shot is administered late.
Mike Wernicke, a 73-year-old Austin-area resident, told the American-Statesman on Monday that he was concerned how and when Austin Public Health would reach out to schedule his second dose due Friday.
Wernicke said he and his wife, 77-year-old Marian Wernicke, have self-isolated throughout the pandemic and are anxiously awaiting their second doses before returning to some sort of normalcy.
“There is so much uncertainty out there,” Wernicke said. “Obviously, we are eager to get that second dose.”
However, Austin Public Health in a statement to the Statesman on Monday said the Texas Department of State Health Services had yet to deliver on promises to send the 12,000 second doses needed for residents this week.
While the delay might backlog the distribution of second doses, Austin Public Health officials on Monday assured residents the doses will still be just as effective if delayed days or even a week.
Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin-Travis County health authority, said last week that Austin Public Health would focus this week on administering those second doses to fully vaccinate 12,000 residents at a time.
“We’re not clear what that week is going to look like, but we’re anxious to have that discussion with the state,” Escott said previously about distributing second doses this week.
Austin Public Health officials on Monday said they are in constant communication with Texas Department of State Health Services officials, who are aware of the need for second doses.
Texas health officials on Friday announced they were expecting slightly more than 400,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government this week, which is significantly fewer than the 520,425 first doses received the week before.
Austin Public Health will for the fifth week in a row receive 12,000 of those first doses. However, the local agency cannot use any of those doses to vaccinate individuals who need a second shot, according to state requirements.
Texas health officials said Friday that they would order 330,925 more doses for the purpose of administering second shots to people who received their first dose in recent weeks.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines require two shots three to six weeks apart.
However, it was unclear Monday why those second doses were delayed or when they would be shipped.
Wernicke on Monday said he was concerned that if second-dose vaccine shipments continue to get delayed, Austin Public Health would then require residents to secure appointments through the same process as used for first-dose appointments.
Austin Public Health requires those 65 and older, and those with underlying health conditions, to log on to the Austin Public Health vaccine website and try to reserve appointments once they are published on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
However, the site often crashes on those days as many of the 129,438 residents 65 years or older attempt to log in and look for open appointments.
Austin Public Health is now trying to fix the issue by prioritizing some of Travis County’s oldest residents who currently qualify for a coronavirus vaccine with more aggressive outreach efforts.
Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard on Friday said those 80 and older will soon receive a phone call to help them schedule a vaccine appointment once doses become available. Residents in that age group also will receive an email before vaccine appointments are posted to APH’s website on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Hayden-Howard said residents 80 and older should continue to be patient and wait for their phone calls and emails, explaining that they will go in order of who preregistered through Austin Public Health first. About 11,000 residents are in the 80-plus age group.
Austin Public Health officials on Monday said once second doses become available, residents will receive an email or phone call two to three days before they are due to receive the final vaccination.
“However, as APH has not received second doses, there is a delay for the current round of individuals,” the agency said. “Once APH receives the second doses, we will be contacting individuals with information for their second-dose appointment.”
Getting a vaccination in Central Texas
Travis County: Visit austintexas.gov/covid19-vaccines for information from Austin Public Health about preregistration for vaccinations and eligibility requirements. Phone: 512-972-5560
Williamson County: Residents can visit wcchd.org/COVID-19/vaccine.php for information from the Williamson County and Cities Health District. The county’s vaccine hub is Family Emergency Rooms Cedar Park, 833-984-3747, familyhospitalsystems.com/services/covid-19.
Hays County: Visit hayscountytx.com/2021/01/22/covid-19-vaccine-appointments/ for information from the county Health Department.
Bastrop County: The county’s website co.bastrop.tx.us/page/em.coronavirus contains links to frequently asked questions and hotline phone numbers. The vaccine hub is A+ Life Style Medical Group, 866-268-2289, www.covac.info.