AUSTIN (KXAN) — The biggest obstacle to getting the COVID-19 vaccine right now is availability. Central Texas is only getting about 320,000 doses of the vaccine to distribute each week, in a state of almost 30 million people.
At that rate, even vaccinating just half the population with one dose would take 46 weeks.
It’s a similar story locally. In Travis County, there are approximately 1.2 million people, but the county is getting on average just 14,365 vaccine doses each week. To vaccinate even 50% of the population here with one dose would take 41 weeks at this rate, which would take us until November.
The most frequent complaint locally with Austin Public Health’s COVID-19 vaccine registration has been the inability to register as the website has become overloaded and phone calls go unanswered due to overwhelming demand.
“My husband and I have tried for hours each day during this past week to register for the vaccine. Having NO luck AT ALL. We are both over 65 and have extraordinary health challenges,” one viewer wrote in. It was a sentiment dozens of KXAN viewers shared.
“I have also called the ‘help phone number’ many times and it is busy every time I called,” another viewer said.
Here are some tips that might help, if only incrementally:
Try logging on at non-peak hours
If you have not yet pre-registered, try doing that early in the morning or late at night. With far fewer people on at those times, it’s much easier to access the Austin Public Health website without issue.
Setting an early alarm could save hours of frustrating clicks later — especially for pre-registering.
Know what to expect ahead of time
Pre-registration is pretty straightforward. But it always helps to know what you’re doing before you get there.
We created a complete “how-to” guide for pre-registering. It walks you through the steps and allows you to see some of the screens you’ll see as you complete the process.
Password error? Don’t reset, try this
Some people had issues logging in to their accounts after signing up. The system would tell them they had an incorrect username and password even though they were entering the correct credentials.
The APH tech team then said if you added “.aph” to the end of the email address you used to sign up, along with the password you created at registration, you should be able to continue. It might kick a confirmation email to you, so if that happens, just go to your inbox and confirm you actually tried to login.
Here’s what the login page looks like and how you should format your email address:
Set up push, text alerts for emails from Austin Public Health
If you are in the Phase 1A or 1B groups — which includes health care workers, those in long-term care facilities, seniors 65 or older, and people with underlying medical conditions — you will be able to move from pre-registration to the registration phase, (pending the availability of the vaccine.)
Austin Public Health will send an email telling you that you can now sign up for a time to get your vaccine. But again — there are a limited number of doses, so it’s important to register for a time to get your vaccine as quickly as you can.
To help, try setting up email or push alerts for emails from Austin Public Health. For example, one Google extension allows you to set up text alerts for emails in Gmail. It might take a bit of googling on how to do this with your own email provider.
Look at which other providers are getting a COVID-19 vaccine
On Fridays, the Texas Department of State Health Services will typically release which providers will get shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine in the upcoming week. If your healthcare provider is listed and you are in Phase 1A or 1B and act quickly, you might be able to get a vaccine from them.
For example, Lone Star Circle of Care received a number of doses this week across Travis, Williamson and Bastrop counties. Lone Star Circle of Care says those vaccine doses are for established patients that it knows already are in Phase 1A or 1B. It plans to email or text those patients to come in this week and get the vaccine.
Most stressful tip — patience
It has been more than five weeks since patients first started getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas and across the country.
The number of available doses is expected to increase this year though as the FDA approves more vaccines for use. Three possible COVID-19 vaccines are in large-scale (Phase 3) clinical trials:
- AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine
- Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine
- Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine
Patience is especially key if you are not currently approved to get the vaccine and are not in Phase 1A or 1B.
Yes, people have managed to get the vaccine who are not in those groups, as Austin Public Health admitted last week, but every vaccine dose someone tries to get or successfully gets who is not in Phase 1A or 1B means one fewer dose available for those people at higher risk.