How Austin Public Health determines if you qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine

Texas Coronavirus Vaccine
Updated Austin Public Health Vaccine Eligibility Flow Chart

Updated Austin Public Health Vaccine Eligibility Flow Chart

Editor’s Note: A graphic from Austin Public Health previously used in this story has been removed since the department reported there was an error in the graphic. This story has been updated to reflect those changes as well including the department’s new, corrected graphic. A previous version of this story stated race and ethnicity were qualifying factors for eligibility for getting the COVID-19 vaccine through APH. APH clarified that while the department is trying to prioritize getting vaccines out to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, race and ethnicity do not factor into vaccine eligibility. To learn more about whether you qualify for Phase 1B under Texas DSHS guidelines, look here.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health shared a new flowchart at a joint meeting of Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council on Tuesday, explaining its process for determining whether people are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine right now. The department shared a corrected, updated version of that flowchart on Wednesday.

Those who are eligible to get vaccines right now through APH are people who fall into the state’s 1A and 1B criteria. APH’s updated flowchart indicates this includes:

  • Health care workers
  • People who live or work in a long-term care facility
  • Designated essential caregivers
  • Those over the age of 65
  • Those over the age of 18 with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for COVID-19.

APH clarified for KXAN on Wednesday that while technically anyone over the age of 18 who falls into the 1B category is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine right now, APH is particularly focused right now on vaccinating people who are both 1B eligible and over the age of 50.

If you are more than 65 years old, you are immediately eligible for the vaccine. But as health leaders have reiterated, even if you fall into that age bracket, actually getting the vaccine depends on how many doses are available from the state. There are currently not enough doses for everyone immediately eligible.

The reason why no one younger than 18 is administered the vaccine is because the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (which is the vaccine APH has been receiving) can only be administered to those 18 and up. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to those 16 years of age and older.

Updated Austin Public Health Vaccine Eligibility Flow Chart
Updated Austin Public Health Vaccine Eligibility Flow Chart Feb. 3

While the vaccine eligibility flowchart the department released on Tuesday said those “in a community disproportionately impacted by COVID-19” are eligible for the vaccine under the 1B criteria, the updated flowchart the department released Wednesday did not contain that phrase and only referenced those who have medical conditions.

A spokesperson for APH explained to KXAN Wednesday that race and ethnicity are not qualifiers for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility. The spokesperson explained while the department understands that certain groups have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, APH cannot prioritize people based on their race and ethnicity. Still, the department is working to distribute the vaccine equitably to the different racial and ethnic groups across the city, the spokesperson said.

Black and Hispanic residents, for example, make up a disproportionate rate of the people who are hospitalized for and die of COVID-19 in the Austin area.

If you are between the ages of 18-64 and you have one of the underlying medical conditions listed by DSHS for the 1B category, you are also immediately eligible, regardless of your insurance status. For example, if you have cancer and are within that age range, you would qualify.

People wait in line at an Austin Public Health distribution site to get the COVID-19 vaccine after they were registered.

If you are between the ages of 50-64 but not in one of those impacted communities, APH will add you to its waitlist, because vaccine supply is limited.

If you are in any other group that is not defined above, you will be put on the APH waitlist. At this time, people who fall into the Texas Department of State Health Services 1A and 1B groups are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, though APH notes there is currently not enough supply of the vaccine in the Austin area to meet the demand for everyone in those categories right now. To learn more about COVID-19 vaccination through APH, look here.

APH says because of the current COVID-19 hospitalization rates, the Austin metro area will remain in Stage 5 of its risk-based guidelines, which include:

  • No gatherings with anyone outside of your household
  • Dining and shopping should be limited to essential trips
  • Avoid non-essential travel
  • Businesses are recommended to operate through contactless options (i.e. curbside, delivery)

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott believes Austin will stay in Stage 5 until approximately Feb. 18. That’s when models suggest the seven-day average of new hospital admissions will drop below 60 new admissions a day.

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