UPDATE: Austin Public Health open vaccine preregistration portal Jan. 13

Photo of Moderna vaccine
Austin Public Health received 12,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)

Austin Public Health received 12,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)

Update: Jan. 13, 9:10 a.m.

Austin Public Health opened a registration portal for vaccine appointments Jan. 13. According to APH, appointments will be offered to eligible individuals in Phases 1A and 1B of distribution, including health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff and people age 65 and older.

APH Director Stephanie Hayden encouraged eligible people with insurance to contact their primary care provider or pharmacy before registering through APH to see if vaccination appointments are available through other providers, allowing APH to reserve its doses for underinsured individuals.

"It is critically important that we focus on our most vulnerable populations, including those who do not have private insurance or regular access to healthcare," APH Director Stephanie Hayden said in a news release.

Eligible people without access to the internet can call the APH Nursing Hotline at 512-972-5560 to request an appointment. The hotline is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Both the hotline and the online portal are available in English, Spanish and other languages.

Original post: Jan. 12, 3:36 p.m.

Austin Public Health will open an online registration portal for coronavirus vaccine appointments Jan. 13 to begin distribution of a 12,000-dose shipment of vaccines allotted by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County health authority, said most of these doses would be administered to individuals in Phase 1B, particularly people over age 65 who are underinsured.

This week marks the beginning of APH's expansion to Phase 1B vaccine administration, which includes people with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes and various heart conditions. However, APH and other local providers will also continue to administer vaccines to individuals who qualify under Phase 1A, including health care workers and long-term care facility residents.

Once APH opens its registration system, people who qualify under Phases 1A and 1B will be able to request appointments at four APH vaccination sites. People without internet access can call APH to request appointments. The registration process will include questions to help select the applicants most in need.

"There are going to be many more people we expect to sign up than we are able to provide vaccine to this week," Escott said. “Our call is really to focus on those who have fallen through the gaps: those people who are from communities of color, who live in poverty, who are living and working in areas where disease transmission is high.”

The department made an outreach effort to one high-risk area last weekend with a drive-thru vaccine clinic in Southeast Travis County. The county partnered with the city of Austin, Dell Medical School, Ascension Texas and CommunityCare to administer 638 vaccine doses to CommunityCare patients, Capital Metro transportation employees and teachers and staff from Austin ISD, Del Valle ISD, Manor ISD and Pflugerville ISD—all of whom were over age 65, according to county communications.

Eventually, APH intends to partner with private vaccine providers and neighboring county governments to centralize vaccine appointments through its portal, Escott said. However, at launch, applicants will only be able to sign up for appointments at APH sites.

The 12,000 doses at hand represent the first shipment APH has received since being appointed a regional vaccination hub by DSHS, one of a limited number of large-scale vaccine providers chosen for their ability to quickly vaccinate thousands of people per day. Escott said APH aims to vaccinate from 2,000-10,000 people per day later in January when additional shipments come in, but he said APH's capability to do so will depend on additional large allocations by the state.

“If DSHS can find 10,000 a day to give us, we can put it in people’s arms," Escott said.
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.