Residents of Burnet and Llano counties continue to wait for more of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to become available in the area as a scant existing supply is being directed first to front-line first responders, health care professionals, long-term care facility residents and the elderly or those with chronic health conditions.
However, more options are becoming available that could help individuals get access to the vaccine quicker, including the opening last week of a State Department of Health Services-approved vaccination hub in Austin and Travis County, managed by the Austin Public Health Department.
A free online tool has been set up at covidl9.austintexas. gov/s/?language=en_US for people to pre-register themselves or a loved one for a vaccination at an Austin Public Health facility, provided they are currently in one of the two groups being vaccinated:
• Phase 1A: Front-line healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities.
• Phase 1B: People over 65 or with a chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Respondents will create an account and will need a separate email address for each person seeking a test or vaccine, including children. They will need to answer a few questions about symptoms, travel, and contact they’ve had with others to determine if they need testing.
If you and/or a loved one qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine, you will be able to schedule the location, date and time.
According to Austin Public Health, pre-registration does not ensure a person will be scheduled for a vaccine immediately, but will allow that individual to be added to the system and notified at a later date when additional vaccine is available from Texas DSHS.
Vaccinations are being performed in conjunction with 350 pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and hospital groups signed up to provide COVID-19 vaccines in Austin-Travis County. To protect patient privacy, vaccine distribution locations will only be available to those with scheduled appointments.
Beginning Jan. 11, Texas directed most of its allotment of more than 100,000 doses of Modema COVID-19 vaccine to large hubs around the state to focus on vaccinating areas and populations hardest hit by COVID-19. At that time, both Ascension Seton Highland Lakes in Burnet and Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Marble Falls received 100 more doses of the Modema vaccine.
For the week of Jan. 18, Texas will receive 333,650 first doses of COVID-19 vaccine and DSHS has instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ship those doses to 260 providers across Texas — however, none of those are in Burnet or Llano counties.
In the past week, Texas became the first state to administer 1 million doses of vaccine, and vaccine has been administered to residents of all 254 counties. In addition to the first doses mentioned above, the state is ordering about 500,000 doses intended as the second dose for people first vaccinated a few weeks ago.
“Vaccine remains limited based on the capacity of the manufacturers to produce it, so it will take time for Texas to receive enough vaccine for all the people in the priority populations who want to be vaccinated,” DSHS said in a statement “The supply is expected to increase in the coming months, and additional vaccines are in clinical trials and may be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.”
As vaccine availability increases in spring 2021, people will be able to get vaccinated at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, hospitals and other “usual” sites and they may contact their regular provider of vaccines to see whether they will be a provider of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Residents are reminded they should not show up at a hospital or clinic looking for vaccine, but should check their website for availability.
Baylor Scott & White Medical Center Marble Falls was shipped 700 doses of vaccine and still has 220 doses of Modema vaccine. However, they are continuing to vaccinate health care personnel in Group 1A and are now reaching out to existing patients within Group 1B - those 65 and older and 16 years of age and older with certain high-risk medical conditions.
“We will be reaching out to eligible patients to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, as supply allows. Your provider may contact you through MyBSWHealth, via email or by phone,” the company said in a statement
“While we are eager to vaccinate BSWH patients, the supply on hand today is limited. As additional doses become available to us, we will continue to administer them as quickly as possible.
“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is one of the most important steps to protect yourself and our community. The community can help slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands often and practicing physical distancing.”
Ascension Seton Highland Lakes Medical Center in Burnet currently has 100 doses of Modema vaccine still available, but is currently identifying its patient population most at risk to administer the vaccine at this time, according to a statement by Ascension Medical Group (AMG).
“We are currently focused on the patient population identified by the Texas Department of State Health Services in Phase 1B,” the hospital announced on its website. “AMG is in the process of reviewing medical records for all existing patients and contacting all patients who fit the above criteria within Phase 1B to schedule vaccine appointments.
“Please do not call our hospitals or clinics regarding vaccinations, as vaccines are limited at this time, and AMG will reach out directly to patients who are eligible for the vaccine. If Ascension Texas continues to receive additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, we will continue to expand vaccine operations consistent with federal and state guidance. We will share more details publicly when we move to the next phase of vaccination for the larger phase 1B group. Ascension Texas continues to use all COVID-19 vaccines provided and does not hold any COVID-19 vaccines in reserve.”
Locally, H-E-B pharmacies are out of the Modema vaccine, which is not available to the general public at this time.
“H-E-B has requested more COVID-19 vaccine from the state of Texas. Once we have vaccine, eligible customers can sign up using our scheduler below to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at no cost,” the company said in a statement
When the vaccine is available, H-E-B customers can make an appointment through the scheduler online at vaccine.heb.com/?int=curbside-home-hero.vaccine.
Atkins Pharmacy and Atkins Express Pharmacy both are out of vaccine at this time, but are encouraging customers to pre-register through their website at atkinspharmacy.com/covid-19-vaccine-pre-registration. Customers “will be notified once vaccine is available and you are eligible for scheduling a vaccination appointment.”
Llano County Health Authority has established its own COVID-19 vaccine waitlist registration at bit.ly/3be5ymN or people can email vaccine@ hillcountrydirectcare.com.