Nearly 10,000 veterans and qualifying family members have received COVID-19 vaccine in South Texas, said Christopher Sandles, director of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.

That system serves just over 100,000 veterans.

“Our supply of vaccinations has been somewhat unpredictable,” Sandles said Sunday. At first, “we were surprised by receiving more vaccine than anticipated. For our first shipment we were informed it was going to be about 975 [doses]. We ended up getting three times that many.”

So the VA health care system held several mass-vaccination events, he said during a daily COVID-19 update with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2).

“In total, we’ve probably received somewhere around [12,000]-13,000 doses,” Sandles said, but they are carefully conserving some to ensure that veterans can receive the second round of the Pfizer vaccine. “As we receive an additional supply, it’s going to allow us to give a higher volume of first doses.”

The Veterans Affairs system targeted veterans 75 and older at first, then 70 and older in addition to veterans with high-risk medical conditions. A vaccination event this Saturday at Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital will accept veterans 65 and older.

“Because we know there’s difficulty with [older] veterans that we’re targeting reaching us, we have allowed for walk-ins as well,” he said, as long as they are veterans who receive care at VA and meet the age threshold.

The VA website notes that some designated caregivers may qualify for vaccines when their family member becomes eligible. It also notes that VA facilities will contact veterans, not the other way around.

Currently, 58 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 at Audie Murphy. That’s down from a high of 84, Sandles said. The facility also serves nonveterans as it cares for civilians in case of national emergencies such as the pandemic.

So far, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System has seen 3,536 coronavirus cases and 125 deaths, 115 of whom were veterans.

Meanwhile, Bexar County will receive more than 25,500 vaccine doses this week, the seventh week of distribution from the State, for mass vaccination events organized by the City of San Antonio, University Health System, and UT Health San Antonio.

San Antonio saw a significant decrease in the daily case count on Sunday, with 289 cases reported. That decrease is likely the result of a lag in data from the State, Nirenberg said.

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District reported 16 new deaths and 138 new admissions to area hospitals, bringing the total hospitalized to 1,381; 407 COVID-19 patients are in critical care and 251 are on ventilators.

“We are not out of the woods here,” Commissioner Rodriguez said, noting that the coming Super Bowl Sunday is typically a time for family and friends to gather. “Gathering with folks [from] outside your home is not good. It’s probably leading to a lot of these positive numbers and certainly some of the deaths.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org