01/08/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/08/2021 17:05
Austin, Texas - Today, after advocating with community partners and regional hospital systems, Austin Public Health (APH) was informed by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) that, as part of the State's next allocation of COVID-19 vaccine, APH is expecting to receive its largest allocation of doses as part of a statewide program to pilot regional COVID-19 vaccine hubs.
The 12,000 vaccines, which represent less than 1% of the area population, will be administered to those who meet the State's criteria for Phase 1A and 1B of vaccination. Phase 1A includes community healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities and Phase 1B includes residents 65 or older or residents with underlying health conditions that put them at increased risk for severe disease and death from COVID-19.
APH is expecting to receive the vaccine shipment next week and will begin administering vaccines to people in Phase 1A, specifically residents of long-term care facilities not enrolled in the federal pharmacy program, through a closed clinic.
APH has also been working since October with a coalition of partners to plan for vaccine dispensing in underserved areas. APH has strategically identified vaccine clinic locations that are both in the hardest hit communities and accommodate the requirements of a vaccine distribution. That includes that the sites are indoors, have a large seating area to monitor individuals who have been given the vaccine, have ample parking, have connections to transit, and can be set up for dozens of stations to administer the vaccine. To protect patient privacy, locations will only be available to those with scheduled appointments.
'While this pilot allocation is the largest given to us to date, it is important to note that it is still not nearly enough to cover everyone who will want the vaccine in our community,' said Stephanie Hayden, APH Director. 'There is an estimated 200,000 residents without traditional health insurance over the age of 16 that may need to be vaccinated by a safety net provider, like Austin Public Health. We have a long road ahead, but we are excited to take the first step toward vaccinating those most vulnerable to this pandemic.'
In the days ahead, APH will be launching a COVID-19 vaccine registration system for area residents with a focus on vulnerable residents. Individuals who meet the State's current criteria for vaccination may be able to receive the vaccine under this first allocation or through future allocations. The system will have the ability to contact individuals to encourage them to schedule an appointment if and when APH is allocated additional vaccine. A phone line will also be available for those without internet access.
At this time, it is important to remember that not everyone who fits the DSHS and APH criteria will be able to get the vaccine through this first large allocation from DSHS. If you can get a vaccine through your healthcare provider, a pharmacy, or another provider please help us save this limited allocation for our most vulnerable populations. APH urges residents to be patient and keep exercising preventative measures to protect themselves and others.
'The situation in Austin-Travis County is still dire, and getting worse every day,' said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. 'Hospitals are close to capacity, and healthcare staff are burdened and exhausted. Just because more vaccine is being delivered each week does not mean that individuals should slow preventative measures. It would be especially tragic to have more deaths and hospitalizations when we are so close to getting our vulnerable populations vaccinated. Everyone needs to do their part to slow the spread by staying home as much as possible, and, if they leave their home, wearing a mask, watching their distance, and washing their hands frequently.'
APH is one of more than 350 groups distributing the vaccine in Austin-Travis County; we are not the distributor or allocator of the vaccine locally, and the amount of vaccine we receive each week is determined by DSHS.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas, visit dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/immunize/vaccine.aspx.
For more information about the COVID-19 in Austin-Travis County, visit austintexas.gov/covid19-vaccines.