Residents still confused about vaccine rollout in Austin-Travis County may have some of their questions answered Friday morning during a weekly media briefing with local health leaders.
Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin-Travis County Health authority, will be joined by Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard at 11:15 a.m. to hopefully clear up much confusion regarding vaccine distribution under the state’s new hub system.
Every media outlet in Travis County is allowed to ask Escott and Hayden-Howard two questions about vaccines or anything related to coronavirus cases. The American-Statesman plans to ask questions regarding two main concerns raised by readers this week:
How does Austin Public Health select the next person to receive a vaccine appointment among the more than 60,000 qualifying residents who are already pre-registered? Is it done by who pre-registered first, random selection, or residents from a particular zip code?If a qualifying Austin-area resident has insurance, should they still sign up to receive a vaccine through Austin Public Health or try to find one somewhere else? Many residents were confused from mixed messaging about uninsured residents being prioritized through the initial vaccine rollout.
The confusion for Austin-Travis County residents began last week after the Texas Department of State Health Services under Abbott’s guidance decided to focus on supplying vaccination hubs — large community sites with the stated goal of vaccinating 100,000 people across the state each week.
After the announcement, Austin Regional Clinic sent emails to all qualifying patients at its 14 Austin area locations, saying they did not qualify as a hub and would not receive another shipment of vaccine in the near future. Patients were told to find a vaccine by any other official means, pointing them to Austin Public Health.
Austin Public Health last week launched its pre-registration system for the vaccine rollout, which any Texas resident by state law can sign up for in hopes of receiving a dose.
However, Austin Public Health officials in a recent briefing said they planned to prioritize giving its shipments of doses to residents without insurance. The mixed messaging from local health leaders and health care providers left many locals unsure of what to do to get on a waiting list for a dose.
Austin Public Health officials in a written statement on Thursday tried to clear things up, saying residents with insurance can sign up through the system.
While many Austin area residents are keeping their technology close as they wait for a call or email from Austin Public Health letting them know of an appointment, others say they found a loophole and were able to receive their vaccine this week.
Patients who were older than 65, or younger if they have underlying health conditions, said they waited on the pre-registration site until an appointment showed up in the system.
Austin Public Health on Thursday said those who have pre-registered do not need to repeatedly check in on the website, but that they should instead just wait to be contacted. The appointments that popped up were from individuals canceling, which officials last week said doesn’t happen often.
“We ask our community members to be patient,” the statement said. “There are over 60,000 people currently qualified to receive the vaccine who have pre-registered with Austin Public Health. We are distributing the vaccine as efficiently and equitably as possible, but unfortunately supplies of the vaccine are still very limited in Austin, Texas and the U.S.”
Austin Public Health officials said of the 12,000 vaccines received from the state this week, 3,200 have already been administered to residents as of Thursday evening.
This is a developing story; check back for updates.
Watch the public briefing live here on Friday at 11:15 a.m.: http://www.austintexas.gov/page/watch-atxn-live