Officials upbeat on COVID-19 vaccinations, declining hospitalizations in San Antonio

By Scott Huddleston, Staff writer

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported four new deaths from COVID-19 in the past two weeks, but officials say the outlook for getting more vaccine doses looks hopeful.

Testing has resumed after last week’s severe winter storm and 404 new cases of the virus were reported Thursday, up from 371 on Wednesday. There were 494 people in the hospital with coronavirus — five fewer patients — although the number in intensive care rose by four, to 194.

The deaths were two Hispanic women, both in their 90s; a Black man in his 30s; and a white woman in her 90s.

Health officials are hoping the Food and Drug Administration will soon allow emergency use of a vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson administered in a single dose.

“That means we’d have a third vaccine to battle against COVID,” Rita Espinoza, chief epidemiologist with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, said earlier this week. “That would help build immunity of the community and hopefully continue to damper the effects that COVID is having on individuals.”

“That’ll certainly help the entire community,” Commissioner Justin Rodriguez agreed at the daily briefing Thursday.

The two vaccines already approved, produced by Pfizer and Moderna, are given in two doses up to six weeks apart. A committee advising the FDA could issue a recommendation Friday on a third vaccine.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the city isn’t asking the state and federal government for “a specific brand” but hopes to secure “any vaccine they can give to us.”

The mayor noted Thursday the city expects to get more Pfizer vaccine, possibly 10,000 doses, early next week.

Vaccination sites have reopened since last week’s snowstorm and 3,510 vaccinations were given at the Alamdome on Thursday. University Health also is administering up to 3,000 doses daily at Wonderland of the Americas Mall.

Meanwhile, operators with WellMed are taking calls for appointments from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with slots still open, at 833-968-1745. WellMed is operating vaccination clinics at the Elvira Cisneros Senior Community Activity Center and Alicia Treviño López One-Stop Center.

Also, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System will provide up to 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine to veterans enrolled in the system Saturday at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. VA representatives are contacting veterans for appointments. For information, call 210-617-5300.

People currently eligible for vaccination are those 65 and older, pregnant women and all adults with certain medical conditions.

A new text alert system provides updates when new appointments are available for vaccinations administered by University Health, WellMed and the city’s Metro Health. Text VACCINE, or VACUNA for updates in Spanish, to 55000.

Residents seeking information about the virus in English or Spanish can reach Metro Health’s COVID-19 hotline by calling 311 and selecting option 8. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on weekends.

shuddleston@express-news.net


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