Vaccine delays at Austin Public Health continue in wake of winter storm

Photo of vaccine needles
COVID-19 vaccinations from Austin Public Health remain on hold. (Courtesy UH College of Nursing)

COVID-19 vaccinations from Austin Public Health remain on hold. (Courtesy UH College of Nursing)

All Austin Public Health COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites continue to be closed as of Feb. 19 in the wake of severe winter storm conditions. In a Feb. 18 news release, APH said "it is not yet known when vaccine operations will be able to resume."

“We assure you that as soon as we can safely give the vaccine again, we will notify the public," APH Director Stephanie Hayden-Howard said in the release.

APH, a regional vaccination hub and the largest distributor of COVID-19 vaccines in Travis County, was set to receive 12,000 first-round doses from the Texas Department of State Health Services this week. That shipment was delayed due to weather and road conditions, and as of Feb. 19 at 3 p.m., APH had not received the doses.

DSHS said Feb. 19 that 100,000 first-round doses and 300,000 second-round doses from this week's statewide allocation still await shipment and should arrive early next week. During the week of Feb. 22, DSHS will send and additional 591,920 first-round doses and 364,830 second-round doses across the state. 31,250 of those first-round doses will go to Travis County providers, including 12,000 that will go to APH.

Beginning Feb. 12, APH postponed vaccine appointments indefinitely. Once conditions allow vaccines to commence, the agency said it will reach out to those appointment-holders to reschedule, prioritizing second-dose appointments, which the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends take place 28-42 days after a first dose. While APH said Feb. 18 that there is no maximum length of time that should elapse between the the first and second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the CDC's guidance says there is limited data availability as to the efficacy of a second dose administered beyond 42 days.

"We are hoping we have buildings with water and electricity so we can provide the second dose as soon as possible," APH said Feb. 19 in a tweet responding to a resident who said their vaccination appointment had been canceled.

Later that same afternoon, APH said it was in the process of determining when operations could safely recommence—and that vaccine administration would expand once they do.

Editor's note: This story was updated shortly after publication to include new communications from Austin Public Health and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
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.