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Austin Public Health begins setting up appointments for people to get second dose of Covid-19 vaccine

Thursday, February 11, 2021 by Marisa Charpentier, KUT

Austin Public Health received its first shipment of second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday and is now reaching out to schedule appointments with people who are due for their next shot.

APH began receiving 12,000 doses a week to distribute to the public starting Jan. 11. Many people who got their first doses that week have expressed concern about getting the second dose on time, which is right around now.

But APH hasn’t been getting much advance notice from the state about vaccine shipments. On Friday, officials said that, though they had ordered second doses, they hadn’t received notification of when they were coming.

The second doses APH received Tuesday are enough to administer to all the individuals who got their first shot from the agency the week of Jan. 11, according to an APH spokesperson. APH is reaching out to those people by email or phone this week to give them information about scheduling an appointment.

APH is administering the Moderna vaccine, which requires a second dose 28 days after the first. Second doses don’t have to be administered exactly four weeks after the first, though, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The second dose can be given up to 42 days after.

“When a physician prescribes medication, it typically requires you to take it on a stringent timeline. That is not the case with the Covid-19 booster shots,” Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority for Austin-Travis County, said in a press release. “There is some flexibility allowed between doses without diminishing efficacy.”

APH is working to vaccinate people as close to the 28-day mark as possible.

Those who are not yet due for a second dose don’t need to worry about making an appointment right now. APH said it will contact people about two or three days before they’re due for the booster shot.

Vaccine providers are supposed to order shipments of second doses seven to 14 days after receiving a shipment of first doses, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ guidelines. APH said it’s working to ensure those orders are in on time.

A designated vaccine hub, APH was allocated another round of 12,000 first doses this week. About 217,000 people who qualify for a vaccine right now have registered to get one through the agency, though, and 181,000 of those folks haven’t been able to get an appointment yet.

Officials are asking people to be patient and to keep checking the registration portal for open appointments. Last week, APH said it would be posting appointments only on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

APH also teamed up with Travis County this week to expand its vaccine call center. To help ensure vulnerable groups are able to get vaccinated, callers are first targeting people 80 years and older to help them schedule an appointment.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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