As leaders in Texas claim COVID vaccines are on the shelves, hospitals and pharmacies are begging for more

AUSTIN – State Representative Michelle Beckley, D-Carrollton, has no special access to the coronavirus vaccine just because she’s an elected official.

She is a member of Group 1B, the second group to be eligible for the vaccine on the state’s priority list. She has an existing condition that makes her more susceptible to the coronavirus, with her priority designation only as the first response, health care workers and residents of the nursing home.

When the state announced Tuesday that vaccine providers could immediately start vaccinating members of the second group, which also includes 65 and older, Beckley called. For hours.

Four different providers could not give her the vaccine, but for different reasons – one was not open, another said they only had enough doses for medical workers, a third did not have their stock anymore and a fourth goes back and forth with her over an intricate email chain.

It did not make sense. A day earlier, Gov. Greg Abbott said state data showed a “significant portion” of the coronavirus allocation in Texas was on the shelves. The commissioner of the department of public health services called on all providers to vaccinate members of the second group immediately and said he did not want any dose unused.

But on the spot, suppliers across the state say their inventory is no longer available – and many still do not work through first-priority front-line workers. And while Beckley was finally able to book a coveted appointment next week, others in Group 1B have not had as much luck, and they are not sure where to turn or who to consult to get a chance.

“There’s all the confusion,” Beckley said. “Nothing is smooth about this.”


As of Wednesday, state data shows that 205,463 people have received a coronavirus vaccine, while 678,925 doses have been distributed to vaccine providers – pharmacies, hospitals and other institutions – in Texas.

But the data does not fully capture the scene. The state’s reporting system encountered a recording error during the Christmas holidays that excluded approximately 48,000 doses of official data. Another 27,000 vaccines are not yet uploaded because some providers used the wrong number to classify themselves while submitting immunization data to the state, DSHS spokeswoman Lara Anton said. These problems need to be rectified over the coming days.

Subsequently, another 144,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine – one of two currently approved by the federal government – were delayed during dispatch, and they arrive a week later than planned. Suppliers first received the doses on Monday or Tuesday, but this was earlier reflected in state data.

And there is the usual delay in reporting. Providers have 24 hours to submit their vaccination data to the state, and then it takes another 24 hours before the data appears on the public dashboard.

“It is possible” that a “significant portion” of coronavirus vaccines put on the shelves may have been an exaggerated statement, Anton said. DSHS commissioner John Hellerstedt first issued a letter to suppliers asking them to use up all available stock last week, while the extent of the shipping delays and technical errors were not entirely known.

“A lot of things have contributed to numbers looking lower than anyone thought it should be,” Anton said.

Government Greg Abbott talks about the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UPS distribution center in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, December 17, 2020. Listen is Nim Kidd, Texas Emergency Management Division.

Now, if the state moves into the second qualifying group of Texans, that’s the question. Anton said the state is not currently able to hand out extra doses of vaccine because they are awaiting a weekly grant from the federal government, and sometimes do not know how many doses they will receive until the last minute.


In Houston, hospitals that are part of the Texas Medical Center said they distribute the vaccines they received quickly and that they hold no reserve.

Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center reported on Wednesday that it administered more than 95 percent of the 5,850 doses of Pfizer vaccine. The Houston Methodist distributed 19,000 of the 30,000 doses by Wednesday, though the hospital had received about 10,000 of the doses the day before, a spokesman said.

“We vaccinated the 75-plus people this week by contacting our patients who have been using our facilities for the past two years,” Methodist spokeswoman Stephanie Asin said in a statement. “We will then move to 65 plus.”

Bexar County

Bexar County has about 140,000 health workers in the front line who are eligible to receive the vaccine now, but the province has only received about 50,000 doses. There are likely to be another 40,000 doses on the way, but it is still not enough to vaccinate everyone in phase 1A, which will remain the priority, said Colleen Bridger, the interim director of the Metropolitan Health District in San Antonio.

As of Tuesday, more than 31,000 people have been vaccinated in the province, and the number is increasing every day. On Dec. 23, the country received a shipment of 1,100 vaccines and used them within three days, Bridger said.

District Judge Nelson Wolff, who was vaccinated on Wednesday, said doses “do not sit on the shelf” in the university hospital, the provincial district hospital. Shelley Kofler, a University Health spokeswoman, said they received 6,475 doses of Pfizer vaccine and used more than 6,000 of them on Wednesday.

Both University Health and CHRISTUS Health in San Antonio are preparing to offer the vaccine to people in phase 1B on a larger scale next week. A spokesman for Methodist Healthcare said more details on the extension of vaccination to people in phase 1B would be available in the coming days.

“Throughout San Antonio, we have not yet gone through the entire first phase and we have not even received enough vaccine to be able to do that,” Bridger said. “We plan to make large-scale vaccination of the vaccine when the stock is available and sent to us.”

Confusion abounds

HEB, one of the largest retailers in Texas offering the coronavirus vaccine, received about 28,000 doses of the vaccine on Christmas Eve. The allocation translates into about 100 doses per store, and ‘it doesn’t last very long,’ said Dya Campos, director of government affairs at HE-B.

The company has already exhausted the initial award, Campos said. HEB does not currently offer the vaccine to members of the second priority group, as it is still operated by suitable front-line workers and long-term caregivers.

Once the pharmacy receives more doses, an online scheduler will be opened where people can sign up to receive the vaccine, she said.

“The problem with vaccinating 1B is currently supply,” Campos said. “Once we need more, we can broaden the group we are currently vaccinating. … There is not much time in the process. This can be frustrating for the general public. It is a very complicated and fast moving process. ā€

Smaller, local suppliers are experiencing similar problems. At the 38th Street Pharmacy in Austin, co-owner Jeffrey Warnken said he received 200 doses of the vaccine on Monday – and he was almost through with his award. The rest of the available shots will already be in the arms of people by Monday.

“Would you like to send us more doses?” he said. ‘We’ll vaccinate these people, that’s great. But I did not. All my doses have been deducted. ā€

And although members of the second priority group are struggling to find available doses, some Phase 1A members say they are still on the sidelines.

Margo Rocha, a San Antonio resident who works as a monitoring technician at the university hospital, said she received her first vaccine dose about two weeks ago. But her husband, who works directly with patients in a gastroenterological practice, was told he did not. qualifies as a frontline worker to receive the vaccine.

“I’m glad I got it, and I’m not happy he could not,” Rocha said Tuesday. ‘He’s willing to get it, but he does not know who to ask, except (his) employer, but the employer is told no. … If you can not go to your employer, who are you going to? ‘

Tony Dasher, a professor at the Feik School of Pharmacy at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, said many pharmacies in the community were probably surprised when the state suddenly approved the vaccination of people in Phase 1B on Tuesday, which it making it difficult for pharmacists. to coordinate the administration of the vaccine while still running their businesses.

“The state must act and ensure that there is good communication and that people know that there will be adequate vaccinations, and they must get the supply of vaccines into the community now and not later,” Dasher said.

“Pharmacy has really prepared for this and they are ready, but unfortunately there are other limiting factors that will lead to dissatisfaction at the end of the day,” he added. “I think pharmacies will do their part if the state does.”

Anton, the DSHS spokesperson, reiterated that members of group 1B, because the supply is still limited, have to check in regularly with their primary care doctors and other providers to get availability.

The governor’s office, meanwhile, has made great efforts to vaccinate Texans as quickly as possible, while doubling the claim that some suppliers may not use vaccines provided to them.

“As new shipments arrive every week free of charge, the state of Texas is appealing to suppliers to quickly vaccinate as many people as possible from the risk groups rather than these life-saving vaccines and medicines that are on the shelves,” said Renault Eze, spokesman for Abbott, said. said in an email.