Despite not having the backing of public health officials, some City Council members are still hoping to establish a coronavirus vaccine registry for the Bexar County area, similar to ones in other major Texas cities.
Council members Ana Sandoval (D7), John Courage (D9), and Rebecca Viagran (D3) submitted a special meeting request Thursday to discuss the possibility of creating a vaccine registry. The need to do so, they said, stemmed from state health officials’ sudden move to make all adults in Texas eligible for vaccines.
“On March 23 the State announced expansion of eligibility to all adults beginning Monday, March 29,” they wrote. “The State did not announce a corresponding increase in vaccine allocations.”
While more people are eligible for the vaccine, Texas did not increase the number of doses that providers in San Antonio will receive, which will not help ease the anxiety that comes with attempting to schedule a vaccination appointment, the Council members said. The City of San Antonio was set to open 30,000 appointment slots Thursday evening, likely setting off a scramble by residents to secure one. Previous large blocks of appointments have filled quickly, sometimes in less than 30 minutes.
Local public health officials have previously advised against creating a vaccine registry, saying that it would not help settle people’s concerns about getting an appointment. Local vaccine providers have not thrown their support behind a registry; UT Health San Antonio Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Leverence discussed the matter with council members earlier in March.
“I don’t think any of us are opposed to a registry,” Leverence said at a March 16 committee meeting. “I just don’t think we’re necessarily all convinced it’s going to solve the problem that we’re hoping to solve. … Will patients necessarily have an easier time or getting [vaccines] any quicker? I’m not sure that that’s the case.”
Courage has been among the most vocal advocates for a centralized vaccine registry. When he asked about the potential for one at a Feb. 18 meeting, City Manager Erik Walsh said coordinating with all the vaccine providers in the county would be difficult as the City only gets doses for the City-run vaccination sites. The City did join forces with UT Health, the WellMed senior centers, and University Health for a text messaging system that sends alerts when appointments are available. There are many other vaccine providers in Bexar County other than the mass vaccination sites, however.
Sandoval, Courage, and Viagran wrote in their request that the registry they hope Council will consider is not a “first-come-first serve waitlist.” Instead, City Council should think about a registry with names and information that would help vaccine providers prioritize certain people, such as those with health conditions that make them more high-risk if they contract the novel coronavirus, the council members stated.
“We understand the registry would neither create more vaccines nor make appointments go any faster,” the Council members wrote. “However, it would improve the vaccination signup process for our residents and help us prioritize vulnerable and special populations such as over 80, teachers, etc., in a transparent, predictable manner. Our community deserves nothing less.”