Vaccine doses won't be in plentiful supply until this summer or fall, a public health expert said on Tuesday.
Vaccine doses won't be in plentiful supply until this summer or fall, a public health expert said on Tuesday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

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As iconic buildings in downtown San Antonio shone an amber hue Tuesday night to memorialize the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic, a top public health official cautioned that the vaccine is still several months away from being broadly available.

Though more than 80,000 Bexar County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Department of State Health Services, supply remains scarce. For many who have felt the pain of missing the cutoff as health care providers open a limited number of online signups for the vaccine, the wait grows increasingly frustrating.

“There’s not enough vaccine,” said Dr. Junda Woo, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s medical director. “And if nothing changes there won’t be enough vaccine until the late summer or fall.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff voiced some optimism that incoming President Joe Biden would speed up distribution nationwide. Biden has announced a plan to vaccinate 100 million U.S. residents by his 100th day in office.

“He’s laid out some things that he intends to do differently,” Wolff said of Biden. “And one of them, and we’ll see if this happens, is a greater federal pressure on the manufacturers to get out more doses of vaccine.”

The vaccine in Texas is prioritized for those who meet the eligibility criteria for phases 1A and 1B of the rollout – health care workers, nursing home and other long-term care patients, residents age 65 or older, and adults age 16 or older with underlying health conditions.

Different routes to the vaccine exist depending on your priority group. For example, health care providers have been largely responsible for vaccinating their staff, and many nursing homes and assisted living centers are coordinating with retail pharmacy companies such as Walgreens and CVS to administer vaccines to their residents.

Despite their 1A status, however, many long-term care residents and health care workers have reported difficulty getting the vaccine. The pharmacy retailers have been under scrutiny for the sluggish rollout at nursing homes throughout the nation, according to reports.

Meanwhile, San Antonio residents in phases 1A and 1B have been able to register online for mass vaccination hubs at the Alamodome and through the University Health System, though many have been shut out. Because of the disparity between vaccine supply and those in Phase 1B – comprising about half of the Bexar County population – seeking the vaccine, University Health has since adopted a different tack: opting to prioritize its vulnerable patient population as well as at-risk staff members at local school districts.

The City of San Antonio postponed on Monday and Tuesday its scheduled mass vaccinations at the Alamodome because of a delayed shipment of vaccines. The doses have since arrived, and vaccinations are back on for Wednesday.

Another set of appointments will be made available for Thursday vaccinations, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said during the Tuesday COVID-19 briefing. If you are in groups 1A and 1B, you can sign up to receive the vaccine via the City’s online system. If you have trouble accessing the system call 311 or 210.207.6000 (select option 8) or email COVID-19@sanantonio.gov.

More than 400,000 Americans have died from the disease that has gripped the nation for nearly a year. An effort to memorialize victims of the pandemic took place Tuesday night as cities throughout the nation illuminated some of their most famous structures. As the Alamodome, Tower of the Americas, and Henry B. González Convention Center glowed amber on Tuesday, Metro Health announced 10 more local deaths, bringing the toll to 1,822.

Nearly 2,400 cases were added on Tuesday to the cumulative case tally, and the seven-day average now stands at 2,041.

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

  • 152,231 total cases, 2,395 new cases
  • 1,822 deaths, 10 new deaths
  • 1,407 in hospital, 10% beds available
  • 435 patients in intensive care
  • 257 patients on ventilators, 50% ventilators available
  • 82,743 vaccinated residents (at least one dose)
JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is the San Antonio Report's audience engagement editor.