Days after Bexar County reached the milestone of 1 million residents having received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s assistant director said a majority of older residents have gotten the jab.
“As of May 17, slightly under 95% of our 65- to 74-year-olds have already received at least one dose,” said Anita Kurian, assistant director of Metro Health. “Slightly under 85% of our 75 years and older have received at least one dose, and slightly under 75% of our 50- to 64-year-olds have received at least one dose. So we are doing pretty good in terms of COVID-19 vaccination coverage among our seniors.”
At a Thursday meeting of the City Council’s Community Health and Equity Committee, Kurian also briefed Council members on the youth vaccination effort. As of Wednesday, 18,863 12- to 15-year-olds have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which got emergency approval from the FDA earlier in May for adolescents. Kurian said Moderna is also seeking emergency approval for its vaccine in the same age group.
“As far as children younger than 12, there are trials going on and I think the earliest we will see is sometime late this year or early next year,” she said.
Even with children younger than 12 still waiting on a vaccine, Kurian assured Council members that there were no outbreaks in local elementary schools throughout the pandemic. But for now, health care providers are focused on making sure all eligible residents get the vaccine.
“The goal is to vaccinate everyone who is vaccine eligible at this time,” Kurian said. “And if you look at the percent who are fully vaccinated, it’s about 47%. The goal is to get everyone [who] is vaccine eligible … slightly over 1.6 million. So we do have a long way to go.”
However, the San Antonio area’s vaccination efforts, including at the Alamodome mass vaccination site operated by the City of San Antonio, have slowed down recently, Kurian said. Because of that, the Alamodome will only be open Wednesday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. starting next week. People can still make drive-through appointments, though they are not required.
“This is a trend that’s been documented across the state and across the nation,” she said. “Our current no-show rate at the Alamodome is as high as about 90% for the first doses and about 10 to 12% for the second doses.”
Other large vaccine providers saw the same decline in vaccination appointments that Metro Health did. At UT Health San Antonio, the vaccine hub will scale down from a large auditorium on campus to the lobby of the Medical Arts and Research Center (MARC), which is smaller, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Leverence.
“Similar to the other vaccination sites, over the past month we’ve gone from giving several thousand vaccines per day to now a few 100 vaccines per day,” Leverence said.
University Health also began accepting vaccine seekers on a walk-up basis within the last month instead of requiring a scheduled appointment, CEO and President George Hernandez said.
“At first we were not enamored with walking up and trying to get a vaccine because it delayed the line, but as the line tapers off, walk-up vaccinations is the best way to handle it,” he said.
Overall, University Health has given out 448,055 doses of the coronavirus vaccine, Hernandez said. The vast majority of that was at the Wonderland of the Americas Mall, though University Hospital did distribute 11,115 vaccines.
UT Health has given out 164,643 doses of coronavirus vaccine so far – mostly Pfizer, though it did also administer some Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. And WellMed has given out 212,761 vaccine doses as of May 23, said WellMed Senior Vice President Jimmie Keenan, a retired major general and former chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
“[Conjunto legend] Flaco Jimenez did get his second shot of Moderna today, so we’re thrilled about that,” Keenan said. “And we have released that public service announcement to the media in both Spanish and English from Flaco encouraging the population to get vaccinated.”