How did non-priority Austin residents get vaccines ahead of 1A and 1B patients?

Travis County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health is tightening up their vaccine distribution after dozens of non-prioritized people received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

KXAN began receiving photos on Tuesday from people showing long lines at the Delco Center. One person estimated around 800 people were present at 7 p.m.

Austin Public Health admitted on Wednesday that they gave a vaccine to people who waited in line all night “out of common courtesy” — these people were not in the priority 1A or 1B groups.

“We’re not going to waste vaccines. We had people that were in the line and had stayed in the line. So out of common courtesy, we decided to go ahead and provide the vaccine to them,” said Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden.

Long lines for vaccinations at the Delco Center on Jan. 13 (KXAN/Chris Nelson)

News of the leniency spread like wildfire on social media.

And on Wednesday morning, there was a line of around 100 people waiting to get their courtesy shots, too.

80-year-old Herman Vigil and 75-year-old Alice Vigil were two of those people chasing rumors, trying to secure a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’ve been watching, trying to get a vaccine for a long time and we are finally here,” Alice Vigil said.

“Until this thing becomes clear, we are going to just be chasing vaccines until someone tells us there is one,” Herman Vigil said.

Others were also turned away at the door.

Austin Public Health said they only notified those who were qualified, but word quickly spread. The vaccines must be kept in freezing cold conditions and do eventually expire, so while they won’t be vaccinating people without appointments anymore, they are asking for forgiveness in delivering the ones they already have.

“The vaccine is not wasted if it is in the arm of a Texan, and that needs to be our focus and priority,” said Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.

Those who did receive a vaccine out-of-turn will receive their second dose in a few weeks. But from here on out, Austin Public Health will only use appointments made on its website, ensuring those in the high priority groups receive their dose.

“We really need to make sure people are mindful of those at highest risk, allowing them to go first, following the rules and strategies,” said Dr. Jason Pickett, Austin-Travis County Alternate Health Authority.

On Monday and Tuesday, Austin Public Health distributed 2,480 vaccines of its supply of 12,000.

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