One of San Antonio’s first and largest COVID-19 vaccination sites is closing Friday because of a decrease in demand that also prompted the closure of a testing facility earlier this week.
The closures come as Bexar County’s cases trend downward and as rates stagnate for individuals younger than 65 who are fully vaccinated.
University Health said Tuesday the vaccination center at Wonderland of the Americas mall would cease operations Friday at 6 p.m. The site, which had operated for a year and two months, administered more than 500,000 coronavirus vaccines.
In another sign that the omicron variant is waning in San Antonio, Community Labs said it had shuttered its testing site at Divine Providence Catholic Church on Monday after demand for testing fell after a surge in the first two months of the year.
Two of Community Labs’ highest volume sites remain open, including the testing center at the Wonderland mall and at the Alamo Colleges District support operations building.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s COVID-19 dashboard currently characterizes the area’s risk level as “mild,” although new mask guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorize Bexar County as an area of high community spread in which masking indoors is recommended.
On Wednesday, Metro Health reported a positivity rate of 4.9% in the previous week, down 4.8 percentage points from the week before, and 264 patients hospitalized with the virus.
Sal Webber, president of the nonprofit Community Labs, said there’s been a “big drop-off” in people seeking COVID-19 tests since mid-January.
At that time, the Divine Providence testing site was administering over 6,000 tests a day. In the site’s final days, the average was under 200 tests a day.
At mid-January’s peak, Webber said positivity rates were above 50% until the first week of February.
“That’s way higher than any of the other surges that we’ve seen in the past,” he said. “This last wave was dramatically different from any other waves.”
Webber said that if another spike were to occur, Community Labs has the capacity to open more testing centers within 24 hours.
“This kind of feels like what we’ve seen in the past,” he said, citing peaks in cases followed by valleys, “but we’ve never seen a spike like we saw in January. The positivity rate was just incredible. I don’t know what it means just yet. I hope it means we’re getting near the end. That would be my hope.”
At Wonderland’s vaccination site, University Health was administering over 8,000 vaccines a day in March 2021, said Bill Phillips, the health system’s executive vice president and chief information officer.These days, it’s about 50 or less, with most shots being a second dose of the vaccine or booster shots. Overall, Phillips said about 800,000 vaccines were administered at the site.
Phillips said the demand for vaccines waned in July 2021, causing University Health officials to to close the site. Two months later, it reopened after the approval of boosters and vaccines for children ages 5 and up.
“It looks like in the community, people that wanted the vaccine got the vaccine, so the demand has just diminished drastically,” said Phillips, adding the center only sees about three to four people each day getting their first doses.
According to state data, in Bexar County, 80.63% of people over age 5 are vaccinated with one dose, while only 68% of those are fully vaccinated. In people over 65 years of age, 98% have received one dose of the vaccine, while 85% are fully vaccinated.
“We did what we could to support this community and provide needed vaccines at an easy-to-get-to centralized location,” Phillips said. “It seems like we’re starting to return to some sense of normalcy,” he said.
University Health will continue offering vaccines at its pharmacy locations.