Expanded vaccine eligibility to Texans ages 50 and up might not mean more shots just yet

Texas Coronavirus Vaccine

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Starting Monday, March 15, more Texans will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. The state announced Wednesday all people ages 50 and older now qualify.

They say Texans 50 to 64 years old have accounted for 20% of all coronavirus deaths.

“It’s great news,” said Anas Daghestani, CEO of Austin Regional Clinic.

Even with the expansion, we might not see shots in the arms of 50 to 64 year olds right away. That’s because even though we have more vaccines than we did a month or two ago, Daghestani said, “we still have a little bit of a bottleneck.”

Austin Public Health told KXAN as of Wednesday, “it would be approximately 20,000 individuals who would become eligible under 1C guidelines.”

Right now, a spokesperson said, they have 224,758 eligible individuals who do not have appointments.

APH says it’s important to note that people on their list waiting for an appointment may have already received a vaccine from a different provider and no longer need to schedule an appointment with the agency.

“We are hoping to launch a feature next week for individuals to update their profile with that information to get a more accurate snapshot of how many eligible individuals still need a vaccine,” the spokesperson said.

In a special city council meeting Tuesday, the agency said it is considering mass vaccination plans.

“85% of Travis County residents would be provided the vaccine in eight weeks,” said APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard.

In a slide presented to Austin City Council members Tuesday, APH described one option to vaccinate more people: increasing mass vaccination operations. (Source: City of Austin)

Daghestani said he also has the capacity to administer more shots. But he and APH said they need more supply.

“If we get 20 or 30,000 doses of the vaccine instead of 1,000 or [2,000], we’ll be able to deploy a larger amount,” Daghestani said.

KXAN asked the Texas Department of State Health Services if expanded eligibility will also come with more vaccine shipments to help meet demand, but we haven’t received an answer yet.

Daghestani said he does think supply is increasing.

“In the last 10 days, we’ve received two allocations: 3,300 last Thursday and then 2,500 this week,” he said of Austin Regional Clinic.

In fact, Daghestani thinks the state expanding eligibility is a sign of more vaccines on the horizon.

“By sometime in April, May, we should be really catching up with all the waiting lists and be able to start to offer it to the general public on a wider scale,” he said.

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