Austin Public Health only offering COVID-19 vaccines to Phase 1A right now

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health leaders say there’s not enough COVID-19 vaccines coming in federally and from the state to give to those who aren’t healthcare or frontline workers.

APH is running into the same issues as other vaccine providers, like pharmacies and clinics, across the state, saying it doesn’t have enough doses to vaccinate those in Phase 1B right now.

In a release sent Tuesday, APH says it got 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine from the Texas Department of State Health Services on Dec. 28. An additional 300 doses were received the day after.

Right now, those doses are only going to those in Phase 1A, which include APH direct healthcare staff, direct COVID-19 response staff, Travis County Jail direct healthcare clinical staff, long-term care staff and residents not enrolled with a vaccine provider, hospice and home healthcare workers, first responders who meet 1A criteria, school nurses not enrolled with another vaccine provider and other frontline healthcare staff.

As of Dec. 31, 740 people have been vaccinated using APH’s doses. The health department is working to vaccinate more Phase 1A populations with the remaining doses this week.

But demand for the vaccine from Phase 1B has grown since DSHS suddenly pushed providers last week to start administering to those populations, even if some healthcare workers were still waiting on the shot. Many vaccine providers said they weren’t ready and still needed to focus on Phase 1A.

APH finds itself in the same boat.

“There is not enough vaccine from the state and federal government to provide to our community,” said APH Director Stephanie Hayden in a release. “APH is rapidly distributing vaccine to individuals who meet the State’s definition of Phase 1A, however, the small allocation does not allow us to offer vaccine to Phase 1B individuals at this time.”

APH stressed it does not control which providers get doses or how many are distributed. The state does that. APH is just one of more than 350 local vaccine providers in Austin and Travis County, with its first priority being to serve the most vulnerable populations in the area.

APH will be coordinating with other “safety-net” providers like CommUnityCare, Lone Star Circle of Care and People’s Community Clinic to target equity gaps in vaccine distribution. If more doses are given to APH, it says it will open larger sites in areas that don’t have much access to healthcare providers.

“APH will focus on ensuring we are meeting the gap in the community by providing vaccines in areas with higher positivity rates, to communities living in poverty, uninsured and people that don’t have access to transportation,” Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said in a release.

Hayden went on to say APH is advocating for larger shipments of the vaccine so they can serve more people.

In the meantime, APH encourages those in Phase 1A or 1B who want to get the vaccine to reach out to their regular provider to learn more about their process.

APH also says some cities in the state have gotten more doses than others and will be at different stages of administering the vaccine to their communities.

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