Local elected officials representing the northern sector of City of San Antonio and Bexar County have banded together to request a mass vaccination site north of Loop 410.
County Commissioner Trish DeBerry (Pct. 3) and City Councilmen Manny Pelaez (D8), John Courage (D9), and Clayton Perry (D10) said in a news release Wednesday that the approval of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine highlights an opportunity to set up another mass vaccination site for the area. Currently, there are four mass vaccination sites: the downtown Alamodome, Wonderland of the Americas mall, and WellMed clinics at the Elvira Cisneros Senior Community Center and the Alicia Trevino Lopez Senior Center. UT Health San Antonio is also classified as a mass vaccination site but the organization has committed its doses to patients, faculty, and staff.
The Wonderland of the Americas vaccination site, which University Health operates, is on the North Side of San Antonio, just inside Loop 410. It technically is within the city of Balcones Heights, sandwiched between Districts 1 and 7 and just down the road from the borders of Districts 8 and 9. The WellMed clinics are on the South and West sides, respectively.
“Convenience is key to success,” Pelaez said in a statement. “By placing another location where constituents live and work, the more likely we are to slow the spread of the virus.”
The elected officials proposed Toyota Field on Wurzbach Parkway, VIA Park and Ride on U.S. Highway 281 North, the Shrine Auditorium on Loop 1604, and Six Flags Fiesta Texas on Interstate 10 as potential mass vaccination sites – “perfect drive-thru sites,” DeBerry said. The officials also requested the site be co-managed by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and University Health.
According to data collected by Metro Health, the northern half of Bexar County holds the highest number of vaccine appointment rates. A January Metro Health report showed that the highest rates of people fully vaccinated were mostly clustered in north Bexar County. That same report showed that the zip codes experiencing the highest numbers of COVID cases were in the county’s southern portion. Health officials have emphasized vaccination outreach efforts in neighborhoods with people at higher risk for COVID complications, which tend to skew lower-income.
“The current vaccination clinics are failing in their intended goal of vaccinating the most underserved populations,” Courage said in a statement. “The data shows that a higher number of Northside residents are being vaccinated at these clinics. Why not make it more convenient for our constituents? We are not saying do away with those clinics, only add more.”
Texas expects to receive 200,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine soon, which could greatly bolster vaccination efforts in Bexar County. DeBerry said she has been talking with Republican U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, who represents part of Bexar County, to get the San Antonio area a federally run mass vaccination site. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has set up sites in Houston, Dallas, and Arlington. She hopes that by identifying another mass vaccination site, Bexar County will be ready to stand up a FEMA-run vaccine operation.
“We need to be more proactive versus reactive … let’s get prepared for what’s coming,” she said.