AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting Monday, if you are between the ages of 50 and 64, you’ll be able to start signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine. The age group is part of Phase 1C, which the Texas Department of State Health Services said will become eligible on March 15.
Because vaccine demand still outweighs supply, people in 1C may not get their shots for weeks, according to DSHS.
“Providers can continue to prioritize those in 1A and 1B,” said DSHS spokesperson Douglas Loveday in an email on Thursday. “Vaccine supply is still limited, and we don’t receive enough vaccine from the federal government to be able to allocate doses to all of the Texas providers that want to administer vaccine.”
Texas is expected to receive fewer first doses next week. DSHS also says the state has been receiving fewer doses than it should, because the federal government is using old census data to calculate population.
Loveday followed up on Friday, saying vaccinations are still open to school and child care workers and Phase 1C starting Monday, but “we anticipate providers will continue to prioritize those most vulnerable to severe illness or death at their vaccination sites in the weeks and months ahead.”
Williamson County will prioritize 1A, 1B
Williamson County is one of those hubs that will prioritize Phases 1A and 1B.
“People now can go onto Williamson County’s centralized waitlist to join and select that they are in the state’s 1C category of 50 to 64 years of age or update their entry to state they are in Phase 1C,” explained spokesperson Connie Odom.
She said they currently have about 22,000 people on the waiting list who are over 65 years old and another 44,000 that are in 1B.
“We will be able to send scheduling invitations to these people in the next two weeks, and then we will begin sending emails for vaccination appointments to people in category 1C as the vaccine supply from the state allows,” Odom said.
That’s something 69-year-old Russ Pothast believes should happen.
“We ought to get groups 1A and 1B fulfilled before we start adding more people to the mix,” said Pothast, who lives in Pflugerville with his wife.
The two have been waiting for about a month for their turn.
“If you have more people coming in group 1C, it’s going to become even more and more difficult for us to get an appointment,” Pothast worried. He is signed up with both Williamson County and Austin Public Health.
Austin Regional Clinic will also prioritize prior groups
Austin Regional Clinic is following the same strategy.
“Priority, in my mind, should still be trying to get to those that are highest risk first,” said Dr. Manish Naik, Austin Regional Clinic Chief Medical Information Officer.
Naik said narrowing down a timeline is tricky, because people are often on multiple waiting lists.
“People are doing what we told them, but it makes it a little harder then to track who’s gotten it and who’s not gotten it,” he said.
That’s why Naik said ARC has an internal point system that ranks priority based on age and condition. He said they usually send out more appointment invitations than allocations to account for those who may have gotten vaccinated elsewhere.
“It’s possible that if we get additional allocations, and many of those patients have been vaccinated already, then we may be able to get to that 50 to 64 age group sooner. But we just don’t know exactly what those numbers are right now,” Naik said.
A spokesperson for the vaccination site at the Circuit of the Americas said they’ll be adding 1C appointments right away for their patients.
Current appointments are still only for eligible CommUnityCare patients who have been identified in Travis, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell Counties.
Austin Public Health will open up eligibility for 1C within the next week
Austin Public Health previously said it would open up appointments to 1C folks starting Monday. However, in an updated statement Friday night, it said staff is going to continue to prioritize people in Phases 1A and 1B, after learning APH did not get an increased vaccine allocation for next week from the state.
APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said APH will begin integrating 1C eligibility into its website in the coming days. It expects a higher number of vaccine doses for the week of March 22 after not getting as many this week.
APH sent out this statement Saturday afternoon:
“APH is working to prioritize the vaccine for more than 200,000 1A and 1B individuals in our system who have not yet received the vaccine, along with newly eligible education professionals, early childhood staff and 1C individuals.
In the coming days, APH will make modifications to our registration platform to include the 1C population and allow us to prioritize based on 1A, 1B, and 1C status.”
CVS Health will allow 1C to get vaccines with no difference in priority
CVS Health said in a statement that appointments on its website will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, regardless of which phase you fall under.
Appointments on CVS.com for COVID-19 vaccinations are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Naik said getting more vaccine supply will speed up the process for everyone.
“With President Biden’s goals of being able to open it up in early May to all adults, if we really want to hit that target, then I think we need to get a lot more vaccine, which presumably is coming, but we’re still waiting on that,” he said.