A 95-year-old resident of the Franklin Park-TPC Parkway senior living center, his baseball cap identifying him as a veteran of three wars, stood in a short line Tuesday morning. After providing his information and taking his place in a small gathering room at Franklin Park, a woman in a white coat wielding a syringe asked Ramon “Ray” Morales if he was ready.

“Honey, in the military they used to give us four or five shots in one day and not even tell us what they were for,” Morales said.

The woman quickly stuck Morales with the needle and pushed the clear liquid into his arm before bandaging the injection site. “Thank you,” Morales said.

Morales was one of about 85 people receiving their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at Franklin Park Tuesday morning, one of thousands of assisted living facilities in the state slotted for vaccination priority by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Staff and residents of long-term care facilities fall under Phase 1A, the first group to be allocated vaccine doses in the state. Phase 1A recipients began getting their first dose of the two-part vaccine series in mid-December. Morales said he got his first dose three weeks ago.

In addition to those getting second doses, 126 Franklin Park residents and staff members received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccination Tuesday, Franklin Park Executive Director David Ewing said.

“Some residents wanted to wait to make sure there weren’t any major adverse reactions or anything like that,” Ewing said. “I’m glad to say we’ve had zero incidents of adverse reactions so far.”

Ewing was among staff members receiving a second dose Tuesday, and that will help protect the residents they work with, Ewing said. Staff has had to be extra careful to avoid contracting the virus and bringing it into the facility, Ewing added.

Nearly 40% of COVID-19-related deaths in the United States were reported at long-term care facilities, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in November, before the latest spike. That’s 91,500 residents and staff members.

Franklin Park resident Duane Flink said he was glad to get the second dose and is ready “to get life moving again” when the time comes. The more people are protected from coronavirus, the better, Flink said.

With 13 great-grandchildren he’s been able to visit only through a window, Flink said getting the vaccine felt important.

“I said, ‘Let’s do it, no problem,’” the 94-year-old said.

Just behind him in line, 83-year-old Gwen Minazzi said she was glad the facility made getting the first dose of the vaccine so easy. And apart from minor arm soreness on her arm the day after receiving the shot, Minazzi said she experienced no side effects whatsoever. Reports of side-effects after the second dose could be more common, however.

“A couple shots is fine,” she said. “Anything is better than getting COVID-19.”

Gwen Minazzi, 83, receives her vaccination from pharmacist Neveen Elkidwany. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

However, with the Phase 1B group – those 65 or older and those with certain medical conditions – now also eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as of mid-January, many San Antonians have found it extremely difficult to get a slot to receive their first dose.

Because 60% of San Antonio residents are eligible for vaccination under Phases 1A and 1B, local demand for the vaccine still greatly outweighs the supply, and people trying to schedule vaccination appointments have been stymied by local registration hotline 833-968-1745, for WellMed vaccination clinics at two local senior centers, and the City’s registration website, for vaccination at the Alamodome.

With local authorities predicting the vaccine won’t be available to the general public until late spring or early summer, doctors and health officials are still urging San Antonians to wear a mask in public, wash their hands often, and social distance.

“I would encourage all the people that I’m around and that I work with and that are in my family to keep wearing masks until we’ve really got it under control,” Dr. Joseph Cantey of UT Health San Antonio told the San Antonio Report last month. “The vaccines create a protective immunity against symptomatic disease, but we don’t know yet to what degree that’s going to interrupt asymptomatic transmission.”

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett is the general assignment reporter for the San Antonio Report.