Hundreds wait in line at the Wonderland of the Americas mall for scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations.
Hundreds wait in line at the Wonderland of the Americas mall for scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

This story will be updated.

Texas adults ages 50 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday.

The state health agency said it is expanding eligibility to people between the ages of 50 and 64, as they account for 20% of all COVID-19-caused fatalities in the state, making them the most vulnerable group ineligible for the vaccine up until this point. Bexar County residents between the ages of 50 and 59 have accounted for 13.5% of local deaths while people in their 60s made up 21.8% of the county’s fatalities.

“We’ve seen a remarkable decrease in the number of hospitalizations and deaths since people 65 and older started becoming fully vaccinated in January,” said Imelda Garcia, who chairs DSHS’s Vaccine Allocation Panel, in a press release. “Expanding to ages 50 to 64 will continue the state’s priorities of protecting those at the greatest risk of severe outcomes and preserving the state’s health care system.”

In Bexar County, that means about four out of every five residents, or 1.6 million inhabitants, are eligible. Officials on Wednesday warned residents that Bexar County’s vaccine allocations from the state continue to fall below the current demand in the area. Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Tuesday that although the county has the highest vaccination rate among Texas’s most populous counties, it still has a long way to go to vaccinate all eligible residents.

“We’re still getting roughly the same numbers [of doses] here, so there is still a supply-and-demand imbalance that we need to have corrected by getting more distributions from the state or the federal government,” Nirenberg said.

“Unless the allocations increase, it’s going to add to the frustrations,” added Anita Kurian, assistant director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. “We all have to be patient and hope that the allocations go up from the state.”

A spokeswoman for Metro Health said residents in the 50-64 age group can register for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on Monday. The City made 40,000 vaccine appointments available via its website and 311 services. More than 20,000 appointments have been booked online, but senior and vulnerable residents are encouraged to call 311 to schedule their vaccination.

The City’s text notification system for vaccine availability on Wednesday alerted residents to a new opportunity, however. UT Health San Antonio, which previously reserved vaccines for previous patients of its clinics, has made vaccine appointments available to all eligible residents. Book here.

The 50-64 age group joins a statewide vaccine priority list that now includes frontline health care workers, long-term-care facility residents, adults ages 65 and older, adults ages 16 and older with chronic health conditions, school teachers, school employees, and child-care workers.

About 1 million of the 5 million Texans aged 50-64 have already been vaccinated, according to a DSHS press release.

According to a tweet from the White House’s COVID-19 response team, the U.S. is now leading the world in vaccinations, averaging more than 2 million COVID-19 inoculations a day.

Even if you’re not among the 1.6 million Bexar County residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, you can sign up for a nationwide standby list that alerts people when leftover COVID vaccines become available. More than 1.2 million U.S. residents are signed up for the list. Just enter a few personal details to receive a text whenever a local provider has a shot that might otherwise go to waste.

A day after the Austin City Council announced its local health authority would continue to mandate masks throughout Travis County, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has responded with a stern warning: Rescind the local order by 6 p.m. Wednesday or be sued by the state. In response, Mayor Steve Adler vowed to continue “using every tool available to us to reduce the spread of the virus.”

An emergency order Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff announced Tuesday does not appear to be under threat of legal action, as the order leaves the adoption of mask mandates to individual businesses.

A total of 96 new cases of the coronavirus reported Wednesday brought the seven-day average down to 168. The average was last at that level on Oct. 22.

Two Hispanic men, one in his 50s and one in his 70s, and a white man in his 60s died of COVID-19, Metro Health reported Wednesday. The local death toll now stands at 2,856. That means that one in 702 county residents has succumbed to the disease.

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

  • 199,065 total cases, 96 new cases
  • 2,856 deaths, three new deaths
  • 250 in hospital, 11% beds available
  • 112 patients in intensive care
  • 73 patients on ventilators, 65% ventilators available
  • 306,754 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)
JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

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