AUSTIN (KXAN) — At least one provider in Austin is starting to notify its own patients who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that they can make appointments to receive it, according to a release Thursday.
Texans have been frustrated at not being able to get vaccines since the state announced at the end of December that providers could start vaccinating those in group 1B in addition to healthcare workers in group 1A. Many providers did not have the supply or ability to start vaccinating those in group 1B.
Serving patients now with limited supply
CommUnityCare says it will notify its current patients if they are eligible for an appointment because they fall into group 1B, which includes people 65 and older and those with chronic medical conditions. It is not providing them to the general public at this time and not accepting walk-ins.
CommUnityCare, which is affiliated with Central Health, said it’s temporarily reopened its Rosewood-Zaragosa Health Center in east Austin as a vaccine site. It has a number of locations and clinics in the Austin area and has registered all of them to receive and administer the vaccine. The Texas Department of State Health Services controls vaccine distribution in the state. According to CommUnityCare, the Austin area is supposed to have received 59,825 to date and it has gotten 2,100 of those. There are 1.2 million residents in Travis County.
Although it is opening up vaccinations to its group 1B patients, the health center says it has a limited supply of the vaccine and that “the total number of patients eligible under this phase far exceeds the number of vaccine doses received by CommUnityCare to date.”
Central Health President and CEO Mike Geeslin said it is working with Austin Public Health and others to open large-scale vaccination clinics “as quickly as possible” to serve those with low incomes and no health insurance.
“While we cannot control vaccine supply, we can advocate for equitable distribution as we get more vaccines,” Geeslin said. “We are focused on people in ZIP codes hit hardest by the pandemic – including Latino and African American populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”
Preparing for distribution
Austin Regional Clinic said it has vaccinated more than 6,000 healthcare workers, first responders and those “most at risk” in group 1B. It received 7,000 doses in its first allotment and expects it has enough vaccines left to fulfill its appointments this week. It’s expecting a limited shipment next week “that gives ARC less than five percent of the vaccine needed just for ARC patients aged 75 and over.”
It is reaching out to its own eligible patients to book vaccination appointments. It is allowing non-ARC patients to request one at ARCshotrequest.com. It says the phones at its clinics are “overloaded” with people requesting vaccinations and that hold times are lasting between 30 minutes and an hour and a half and asks only patients who need to reach them for medical reasons to call.