University Health System reached a milestone Friday afternoon in its quest to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine in San Antonio. In a back room at Wonderland Mall, pharmacy technician Vernice Ver drew six doses of the vaccine from the system’s 100,000th vial. Photos taken on February 12, 2021.
Residents can sign up to receive texts to be notified when vaccine appointments become available. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The City of San Antonio on Wednesday launched a text alert system to notify residents when COVID-19 vaccine appointments become available.

To sign up, text VACCINE or VACUNA to 55000. The alerts will trigger whenever one of the local public sites for inoculations receives more doses and opens registration. It is not a waitlist, and recipients of the alerts must still sign up for their vaccines as they normally would. The public sites the City has partnered with include WellMed senior centers and the University Health System.

WellMed announced on Tuesday that it is receiving 30,000 new doses of the Moderna vaccine. It opened registration for appointments on Wednesday. Call 833-968-1745 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to sign up.

The alerts, however, do not include pharmacy retailers that are providing the vaccine, such as H-E-B and CVS Pharmacy.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the City has yet to receive confirmation from the state that it will allocate more first doses to be administered at the Alamodome, the City’s mass vaccination site. The site has only administered second doses for the past several weeks it’s been in operation as it has gone without a first-dose allotment. The mayor has said the site will close if it doesn’t receive more doses.

“We hear this chatter [from government officials] about assisting us with more vaccine doses here in our community,” Nirenberg said. “[County Judge Nelson Wolff] and I have been very clear – we need more vaccines in our community.”

Even after the federal government invoked a wartime declaration to increase production of the materials needed to manufacture vaccines, the country’s supply remains woefully short of demand. That’s largely because the approved mRNA vaccines, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, employ a novel vaccine technology with a supply chain that’s had to scale up extremely fast, according to Kaiser Health News.

But a new single-dose vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson has shown it can prevent severe disease and death while also reducing transmission among vaccinated people, according to new findings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Emergency approval of the shot could come as early as this Saturday and would help speed up distribution.

Local hospitals continue to see a decline in COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, Bexar County hospitals were treating 499 people for the disease, the first time the local COVID-19 patient count has dipped below 500 since Nov. 22.

The coronavirus seven-day average remains artificially low in the wake of a winter storm that hindered testing efforts last week. Nine new COVID-19-caused deaths among people ages 20 to 79, brought the local death toll to 2,510.

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

  • 194,332 total cases, 371 new cases
  • 2,510 deaths, nine new deaths
  • 499 in hospital, 9% beds available
  • 190 patients in intensive care
  • 115 patients on ventilators, 63% ventilators available
  • 220,658 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)

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