One month later, Texas struggles to vaccinate seniors, others in Phase 1B

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The promise of a vaccine had been discussed for months in 2020 but it wasn’t until December when things really started to get going. First, on Dec. 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Then, just a week later on Dec. 18, an emergency use authorization was approved for the Moderna vaccine.

In the midst of that, the Lone Star State received its first shipment of vaccines on Dec. 15. A total of 224,250 doses for Texas to distribute. Travis and Williamson counties would receive 15,600 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in its first week.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: First COVID-19 vaccine in Austin administered Tuesday, who is next in line?

Since then, Travis County alone has received 73,175 doses of the vaccine, averaging around 14,635 doses each week.

During that time, frontline workers in the health care industry were prioritized and vaccinated first under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Texas Department of State Health Services‘ Phase 1A allocation.

Ascension Texas reported it has vaccinated more than 15,000 of its frontline workers and to date, provided more than 9,000 second-dose vaccinations.

RELATED: What are the COVID-19 vaccine phases or groups in Texas?

“It’s been really busy here at the state and there are a lot of folks out there right now that want to try to find the vaccine and I know they’ve had challenges finding the vaccine and that’s just kind of part of this process,” said Dr. David Lakey, vice chancellor for health affairs and chief medical officer for the University of Texas System and a member of the COVID-19 Task Force.

At present, the state has moved on to vaccinating those who fall under Phase 1B — people who are 65 years and older or those with a chronic medical condition. Lakey explains it will take some time to vaccinate this group.

MORE: Timeline: COVID-19 vaccination distribution in Texas so far

“We have about 30 million Texans and this 1B group that the state decided to focus on because the data said that these are the individuals who are most at risk that’s a large number of people, that’s about 8 to 9 million individuals,” he said.

Lakey said it’s going to take some time to get through that group. At present, the State receives around 320,000 doses of the vaccine each week with only about 15,000 of those doses allocated for Travis County where 129,943 people who are 65 years and older live, according to the latest data from the United States Census Bureau.

RELATED: Long COVID-19 vaccine lines form after appointments change through Austin Public Health

Lakey hopes the latest strategy of creating hubs for large scale vaccination distribution helps the vaccination process move forward faster.

“But it’s going to be a while and that’s part of the message is that there is a need for some of that patience and continued prudent steps of wearing masks and physical distancing,” he said.

Hospitals Vaccinating Across Our Area

Over the past month, Baylor Scott & White Health has been immunizing healthcare workers against COVID-19 at its locations throughout the state, ensuring the health system’s ability to continue delivering safe care in the communities it serves. The doses received are distributed within hours of securing the shipment.

More than 49,000 employees and 7,300 active physicians serve Texans through Baylor Scott & White’s 1,100+ access points. The organization has also been immunizing healthcare workers at its partner facilities as well as contracted workers essential to supporting patient care throughout the health system.

“We appreciate the continued focus of our care teams, who are treating more COVID-19 patients today than at any other point in the pandemic, and who now have the added responsibility of coordinating the logistics of vaccine distribution,” said Alejandro Arroliga, MD, chief medical officer, Baylor Scott & White. “Our team’s strength and perseverance in the face of this global health emergency cannot be understated.”

While doses remain extremely limited, Baylor Scott & White is encouraging the public to visit BSWHealth.com/covidvaccine for updates.

Statement from Baylor, Scott & White

As of January 11, Ascension Texas has provided first-dose COVID vaccinations to more than 15,000 frontline caregivers, essential workers, first responders and high risk individuals in accordance with guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). In addition, Ascension Texas has provided more than 9,000 second-dose vaccinations to date. Our overarching goals for vaccine distribution remain to strengthen and protect the healthcare workforce, support those persons with highest risk of exposure and assist those individuals with vulnerable conditions. In addition to these efforts, our healthcare system is working with city, healthcare and non-profit partners to deliver vaccines to underserved communities at the same time. 

Statement from Ascension Texas

St. David’s HealthCare continues to focus its vaccination efforts on Phase 1A healthcare workers, including physicians, clinical and support staff, and first responders. The healthcare systems in Central Texas are experiencing a greater number of COVID-19 patients than at any point during the pandemic, making it imperative that we protect our hospital teams and healthcare workers so they can continue to safely care for patients. Stabilizing the healthcare workforce is essential to providing ongoing healthcare services to our community.

Statement from St. David’s HealthCare

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