Blue Skies of Texas is among the first of long term care facilities in San Antonio to begin wide distribution of the Pfizer vaccine to its residents and employees. Photos taken on December 30, 2020.
Long-term care residents in San Antonio began receiving COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff became one of the first locally elected officials to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

Wolff, 80, was inoculated at University Hospital at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday and later addressed his decision to get vaccinated at the evening press briefing he and Mayor Ron Nirenberg deliver every weeknight. He received the shot, in part, to counteract some of the misinformation he has seen online discouraging people from getting the vaccine.

“It’s a tragedy that that’s out there,” he said of the online misinformation. “And we all need to not be afraid to get that vaccine.”

As we reported here yesterday, the county is about a fifth of the way through vaccinating the 145,000 residents in the initial tier of recipients. And the health care providers that have received shipments of the vaccine have administered more than half of the doses they’ve thus far received.

Colleen Bridger, the city’s top public health official, on Wednesday said although the tiered approach to inoculations prioritizes frontline health care workers and long-term care patients, it does not preclude someone who does not meet that criteria from getting the vaccine, including Wolff.

“We are going to be vaccinating as many people as we possibly can,” Bridger said. “There are plenty of people, beyond just Wolff, who are over 65, who have been vaccinated, and that’s OK. We’re prioritizing health care workers, but according to the state and the federal government, it’s OK for us to move to others as the opportunities present themselves.”

Just before the press briefing, Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) announced on Twitter a forthcoming program at University Health System to vaccinate Bexar County residents age 65 and older with pre-registration coming soon.

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think we are going to turn down anybody that walks up with a health condition, either,” Wolff said.

Blue Skies of Texas was among the area’s first long-term care providers giving their residents the shot on Wednesday. Here’s more on that.

These developments come on the heels of a statement from the state’s leading public health official urging health care providers to administer the vaccines they’ve received “with all deliberate speed.” Nationally, news coverage has focused on the sluggish pace at which immunizations are occurring. And leading members of the White House’s vaccine task force, Operation Warp Speed, have said the program has been carried out too slowly.

The pressure to ratchet up the rollout will continue to mount as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to soar.

On Wednesday, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported that 1,136 COVID-19 patients were in Bexar County hospitals, an increase of 20 from Tuesday. Seventeen residents were reported to have died from the disease within the past two weeks, bringing the local death toll to 1,538. Among the fatalities were four residents in their 30s.

“I want everyone to understand that this year has been extraordinarily difficult for so many families in our community,” Nirenberg said. “And when we report these numbers … please understand there is a grieving family and a grieving community behind [them].”

Here are the local numbers as of 7 p.m. Wednesday:

  • 115,685 total cases, 1,323 new cases
  • 1,538 deaths, 17 new deaths
  • 1,136 in hospital, 10% beds available
  • 331 patients in intensive care
  • 165 patients on ventilators, 52% ventilators available

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.