AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dr. Jason Pickett, Austin-Travis County Alternate Health Authority, joined KXAN News Today anchors Sally Hernandez and Tom Miller to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and if intensive care units in the area would be full Thursday.
After Austin Public Health officials confirmed Wednesday people outside of priority groups 1A and 1B received shots without appointments Monday morning, Pickett said it was a “miscommunication with one of our vendors there.”
“We’ve corrected that now,” he continued. “Seeing the incredible demand for folks who have registered for the vaccine, it’s necessary for us to stick to those who have appointments and those who have registered.”
Of 200 beds set aside for COVID-19 patients in intensive care units around Austin, Pickett said 185 are in use as of Wednesday, but it varies on an hourly basis, he said.
“It’s not exactly a finite number, but what happens is as more COVID-19 patients get into ICU beds, they start crowding out others with ICU conditions,” Pickett said.
The alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center is open and currently has three patients, according to the Texas Department of Emergency Management. Pickett said the site will provide care for those “on the road to recovery.”
“By decompressing some of the lower acuity patients from the hospitals, it makes room for sicker patients,” Pickett said.
Pickett is also in charge of Austin’s infusion center, where antibody treatments Regeneron and bamlanivimab are administered to COVID-19 patients to help them fight the coronavirus, and he said the demand there exceeds supply, much like the situation with the vaccine.
“We’re getting out as many doses as we can right now,” Pickett said. “We’re expanding our capability every day, and I expect by next week we’ll be administering 75 doses per day. It’s a resource that’s growing every day.”
Pickett confirmed APH will open “several” more vaccination sites, and he stressed the sites will be located in “underserved areas.”
“We’re concentrating on those who are most vulnerable and have the least resources,” Pickett said. “Our communities of color have suffered a disproportionate amount, and we’re focusing that vaccination effort in those communities where there’s more poverty, more hunger and less medical care.”
He said the option of a drive-thru site presents some challenges, and that the large vaccination sites they’ve set up can get just as many people through as a drive-thru set-up can.
Travis County hosted a one-time drive-thru vaccination clinic in the southeastern part of the county Saturday, and APH leadership was on hand to observe how it went. The clinic administered more than 600 shots at the event.