Two of Bexar County’s mass vaccination hubs will not have coronavirus vaccines to distribute next week, Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4) said at a meeting Thursday.
The WellMed vaccination sites, located on the city’s South and West sides, were set up for their accessibility to areas hardest hit by the novel coronavirus. They received 9,000 doses last Friday, which they are in the process of administering to Bexar County residents this week.
Previously, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District was able to share its vaccine supply with the WellMed vaccine locations because University Health gave them some of its doses, Rocha Garcia explained. Metro Health staffs the Alamodome, another local mass vaccination site, and expects to receive another 9,000 doses from the state of Texas and keep the Alamodome open next week.
WellMed will be able to administer coronavirus vaccines by next month, however, said Dan Calderón, vice president of communications. The organization expects to receive another 9,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 30 from the City as a result of vaccine sharing between Metro Health and University Health. WellMed should begin administering those on Feb. 1, Calderón said.
City Council discussed vaccine distribution and coronavirus response spending at their meeting Thursday. Ana Bradshaw, the City’s COVID-19 financial and performance liaison, told council members that the City spent all $270 million from the first federal coronavirus relief funding act as planned, and a total of $360.6 million on the City’s coronavirus response expenses. The City budgeted $564.6 million with resources from federal funding, the general fund, the San Antonio Housing Trust, and tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) revenue toward coronavirus response.
Of the coronavirus response money spent so far, $29.7 million went toward small business and nonprofit grants, Bradshaw said. More than $27 million of that was distributed as grants to 1,120 small businesses, including 227 food and beverage establishments.
Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) pointed to the amount spent on supporting small businesses as a reason to look at restructuring where coronavirus-dedicated dollars go. For instance, almost none of the funding set aside for childcare has been used yet, he said.
“Why aren’t we reprogramming now? To me, that was supposed to be spent as of December,” Perry said. “It’s the end of January already. Why aren’t we, for example, [moving] a big portion of that money into [small businesses]? … We had over $100 million of [small business grant applications] out the door, right away. We were only able to fund about a quarter of that.”
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) agreed, taking the opportunity to highlight his outstanding Council Consideration Request about food and beverage grants.
“There are still over 200 restaurants and bars that have applied and did not receive funds in the initial round [of grants],” Treviño said.
“I have spoken to staff about some potential sources of funding which could be used for this relief program. And I would like to take a deeper dive in the feasibility of using such funds for food and beverage assistance as the food and beverage workers relief program goes through the process.”
Meanwhile, San Antonio received an additional $13.9 million from the December federal stimulus package for vaccinations and $46.7 million for housing assistance, Bradshaw said. That was not included in the coronavirus financial report provided to City Council.
The City is still trying to get clarity on how the $13.9 million for vaccines can be spent, City Manager Erik Walsh said. And because the state is allocating vaccine doses week-by-week and requiring them to be administered quickly, it’s difficult to look beyond that timeline.
“The vaccine has to be distributed by the end of the week. … Those are the guidelines and rules from the state,” Walsh said.
The number of vaccines delivered to Bexar County depends entirely on supply, but Metro Health continues to plan four to six weeks ahead based on factors they can control, Walsh said.
“At the end of the day, whatever [vaccine] comes into Bexar County needs to be in somebody’s arm by the end of the week,” he said.
Later, when council members discussed and approved San Antonio’s legislative agenda for the next session of Congress, Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) said she was glad to see “progressive health priorities” included.
“We are a community of pre-existing conditions,” Sandoval said. “Not just with pre-existing conditions, as my grammar check likes to tell me. So we need aggressive action to change that.”
More than 106,000 vaccines have been administered in Bexar County as of Wednesday. People in Phases 1A and 1B are eligible to receive the vaccine in Texas. There are no more vaccine appointment openings at WellMed or the Alamodome this week. People interested in booking an appointment can find more information about the Alamodome vaccination site here or WellMed here.