Austin Public Health leaders address confusion over scheduling for follow-up vaccine doses

Photo of a vaccine vial being emptied into a needle
Austin Public Health reports vaccinating 37,217 people with initial COVID-19 vaccine doses so far. (Lauren Canterberry/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin Public Health reports vaccinating 37,217 people with initial COVID-19 vaccine doses so far. (Lauren Canterberry/Community Impact Newspaper)

Shifting federal guidelines and supply chain issues have left some local residents confused about when they will receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is required to achieve the greatest possible immunity against the disease.

Austin Public Health ramped up its vaccine distribution activities in January following its designation as a regional hub by the Texas Department of State Health Services. On Feb. 8, APH said in a social media post it had yet to receive the required second doses of the Moderna vaccine for recipients who had their first shot four weeks prior. Those doses came in Feb. 9, according to a later tweet from APH.

According to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the thousands of people who had their first shot in January will be immunized from COVID-19 as long as they receive their second dose sometime in the next two weeks.

Although previous guidance from the FDA and CDC said second doses should be given 21 or 28 days after a first dose for Pfizer and Moderna, respectively, the CDC updated its guidance in late January in response to new trial research showing that second doses could be administered up to 42 days later.

Many vaccine recipients who got their first dose from APH already have a card reminding them to expect a second appointment on a certain date, 21 or 28 days following their first appointments, based on the previous guidance. Some reached out to local officials to express confusion about the process.


“I sympathize with the public, which is incredibly impatient with us,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said at a Feb. 9 meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court after receiving feedback from constituents. “Frankly, it’s embarrassing to me that Austin-Travis County, which is supposed to be this innovative, technically savvy city, can’t seem to get this right.”

Shea encouraged APH to send communications to all vaccine recipients who are awaiting a second dose to give them an update about the process, an option APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard agreed to pursue.

Second doses must be designated as such by DSHS; local vaccine providers are not permitted to draw from first dose allocations for second dose administration.

“We know that folks are very anxious to receive the second dose. We cannot emphasize to you [enough] that we are committed to making sure that the individuals that receive their first dose from Austin Public Health will also receive their second dose from us. As we receive the vaccine, we will be reaching out to schedule those appointments for them and make sure that they are notified,” Hayden-Howard said.

APH said Feb. 9 via social media that it will contact people by email or phone for second-dose appointments, and walk-ups will not be accepted.

Those anticipating a second doses should not be concerned if the wait becomes closer to 42 days than 28, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Mark Escott said. The latest research from Moderna, he said, indicates that immunity from a single dose rises significantly—from 50.8% to 92.1%—after two weeks. A follow-up shot ensures the greatest protection, however.

“This does give us the indication, or at least the reassurance, that lengthening out that second dose out to 42 days is safe and that that the vaccine efficacy continues to improve after that first dose,” Escott said.

According to data on APH's vaccine distribution dashboard, 41 people had received second doses from the entity as of Feb. 6. APH also assisted in the distribution of 660 second doses to clients of CommUnityCare, Capital Metro workers, and some public school teachers and staff at drive-thru event hosted by the county Feb. 6.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


MOST RECENT

Austin government, nonprofit and business leaders recently participated in a weeks-long summit centered on unsheltered homelessness in the city. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Plan to house 3,000 homeless individuals in Austin in the next three years would cost $515 million

The plan Austin City Council members discussed April 20 emerged from a weekslong community-wide summit on homelessness.

Photo of Zilker Park
Travis County establishes Civilian Conservation Corps to tackle climate, environmental projects

The program will create opportunities for residents to work on projects including wildfire prevention, solar energy promotion and park cleanups.

Residents march to the Texas Capitol in protests after the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Austin leaders react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

The former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard speaks to reporters March 13 at the Delco Actiity Center in Northeast Austin. Residents can walk up to the Delco Center on April 22 and 23 and receive vaccines without an appointment. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Public Health will accept walk-up vaccinations at the Delco Activity Center starting April 22

APH will also leave its registration portal open throughout most of the week.

Early voting for Travis County's May 1 local elections opened April 19. In this file photo, voters line up ahead of the 2020 primary elections at Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than 8,000 Travis County voters cast ballots on first day of early voting

Early voting for the county's May 1 election began April 19 and will run through April 27.

The Delco Activity Center in Northeast Austin is one of the locations where residents can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. (Jack Flalger/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin vaccine updates: Demand slows as state begins marketing push

Appointments are beginning to go unfilled, and local health officials say demand has caught up to supply. All adults in the U.S. are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Blue Corn Harvest Leander is located at 11840 Hero Way W., Bldg. A, Leander. (Taylor Girtman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Blue Corn Harvest opens in Leander; park, pizzeria launches social club and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Photo of two performers on an outdoor SXSW stage
South by Southwest sells ownership stake in company to Rolling Stone owner Penske Media Corp.

SXSW leadership called the sale a "lifeline" for the conference and festivals.

Photo of people receiving vaccines in a gym
Austin Public Health lengthens windows for vaccine appointment signups

Residents age 18 and up can now sign up for appointments with APH any time from Saturday to Tuesday morning.

Austin Anthem watch party
Crowds of fans converge on North Austin to watch inaugural Austin FC game

Breweries around Q2 Stadium in North Austin brought in large outdoor screens and new employees to host fans of Austin FC for the team's historic first match.

Austin Police Department
UPDATE: Loop 360 closed in both directions in Northwest Austin due to a shooting incident

Residents who live in the Arboretum area in Northwest Austin are advised to shelter in place.

Early voting for the May 1 election opens April 19 at a 7 a.m. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Early voting in Austin opens April 19: See what’s on the ballot, where to vote

City residents will be making decisions on eight propositions ranging from whether to adopt a strong mayor government system to whether to reinstate public camping bans.