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San Antonio City Council Approves Creation Of COVID-19 Vaccination Waitlist

Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
A health care worker prepares her workstation to deliver a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at the Alamodome.

The City of San Antonio will create a countywide waiting list for COVID-19 vaccinations. The San Antonio City Council voted unanimously Wednesday for its creation.

The pilot program will only allow people age 65 and over to register. Vaccine providers will then contact those on the list when they have a vaccine available. The system would use vaccine availability for appointments for the major vaccination sites at the Alamodome, UT Health, University Health and WellMed.

The waiting list system still needs a formal agreement with the vendor who will create it and then two to four weeks of creation time. TPR will share the link once the web page is live.

A centralized waiting list had been a desire of several council members since vaccinations started back in December. However, health officials with San Antonio Metropolitan Health District said at the time vaccine availability wasn’t robust enough to make a waiting list practical.

While vaccine supply has increased, it’s not enough to reach demand, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg noted — especially as the federal government issued a call to vaccinate a majority of Americans by the Summer.

“As we’ve talked about before unless we experience a dramatic increase in supply which to this point we have not, residents are going to continue to be frustrated with the process and inability to secure a vaccine as quickly as possible,” Nirenberg said. “And I’m especially concerned about those residents who will continue to be left behind for a variety of social reasons.”

Dr. Colleen Bridger, Assistant City Manager and head of Metro Health, said there are an estimated 86,000 people who are age 65 and above who have not received a vaccine yet and would be eligible to register in the pilot program.

“We’re not talking about hundreds of thousands of people and we’re not assuming 100% of 65 and up are going to want to be vaccinated, so it’s a fairly manageable number that we’ll be able to get through relatively quickly,” said Bridger.

In order to register, a vaccine recipient will need a Texas address. Registration will not be limited to those in San Antonio and Bexar County.

The system would be managed by HASA — a San Antonio based company that regularly specializes in health information exchanges. It would act as a vendor for the city in providing the system.

An early estimate in the cost for the system would be about $100,000 to $200,000. That would be paid for by a CDC grant the city received for vaccination efforts.

The city’s four major vaccination sites are receiving a combined 42,000 first doses of all three major vaccines according to the state’s vaccine allocations for March 29 — that number doesn’t include numerous smaller providers like doctor's offices and pharmacies such as H-E-B and CVS.

The waiting list would use appointments from the large providers at first but not immediately use appointments from the smaller providers.

When Metro Health, University Health and WellMed open thousands of appointments at once, users have been met with frozen loading pages online and long wait times when calling over the phone.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval says a centralized waiting list is not a silver bullet, but would help alleviate the load when appointments are opened in mass

“Every resident who comes through this portal is one less person that is crashing a website somewhere else,” she said.

In San Antonio, 17% of people 16 or older are fully vaccinated. About 30% have received at least one dose of the vaccine. According to data presented on Wednesday, the population with the highest rate of vaccination is people aged 65 to 79 with 43% fully vaccinated, followed by people over 80 years old with 33% fully vaccinated.

So far, all providers in Bexar County have administered more than 738,000 doses.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules