The scavenger hunt for the COVID-19 vaccine has people burning up phone and internet lines and sometimes even driving across the state to find a dose. With vaccines going to so many locations, it can be intimidating to figure out how to track one down. Here is a primer on what to know before starting a search.
Who is eligible for the vaccine?
The state is limiting the vaccine to two priority population categories, classified as part of phase 1A, which includes medical workers and long-term care residents and staff, or part of phase 1B, which includes people 65 and older or people 16 and older with certain medical conditions.
How can I sign up to get a shot in McLennan County?
If you are in phase 1A or phase 1B, there are two state-designated vaccination hubs for the general public. The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District is receiving another 1,500 first doses of the Moderna vaccine this week to give at its public clinic, which will run Thursday through Saturday at the Waco Convention Center. It will also give 1,500 second doses. Registration is available for eligible people at www.blockitnow.com/wacowaitlist. For signup assistance, call 750-1890.
Ascension Providence has been allocated another 1,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for the coming week and will continue offering vaccinations to 1A and 1B populations this week at its hospital, 6901 Medical Parkway.
Signups are limited to Tuesday afternoons and can be accessed through healthcare.ascension.org/COVID-19/Vaccinations.
Starting Thursday, CVS Health is expected to begin administering the 38,000 doses that the federal government is supplying to its pharmacies in 11 Texas communities, including Waco. The company has not specified which Waco stores would carry the shots or how many would be given here.
The pharmacy giant is setting up online and phone systems to book a time slot for the first dose, with online registration opening as early as Tuesday. To register, eligible people can visit CVS.com or call 800-746-7287.
What about other McLennan County pharmacies and sites shown on the state’s vaccine locator map as providers?
None of them have received vaccines for the coming week and most of their waiting lists are closed.
H-E-B pharmacies across the state have vaccinated some people, mostly in phase 1A, but have not yet received doses the company has requested to distribute more widely. It will schedule appointments only when more doses arrive at vaccine.heb.com.
Brookshire Brothers, which has stores in McGregor and Lorena, has suspended its COVID-19 waitlists because of a lack of vaccines. Brookshire’s, a separate company, is receiving small batches this week at some of its rural Texas stores but not at its Robinson location. The grocery and pharmacy chain has a long statewide waiting list available at www.brookshires.com/covid-19-information.
Where else are people getting shots in McLennan County?
Ascension Providence is using some of its weekly allotment for local school personnel who fall into phase 1B. The health system on Saturday vaccinated Waco Independent School District staff at University High School and plans to follow up with Midway staff Thursday.
Ascension Providence has also said it is calling its own vulnerable patients to arrange immunizations, and providing some vaccines to the Waco Family Health Center, which serves low-income residents. Officials would not provide figures breaking down where its vaccines would be administered.
Meanwhile, CVS and Walgreens have used a federal government contract to provide first doses to nursing home residents and staff nationwide and are now moving on to second doses.
What happens if I don’t get a second dose in time?
Federal and state authorities recommend anyone receiving the Moderna shot receive their follow-up in 4 weeks. The second Pfizer dose should come 3 weeks after the initial shot. However, the second dose is still effective beyond that window, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website.
Full protection starts within a week or two of the second shot.
What do I need to do to get a second dose?
Regardless of where you get the first dose, your shot record is logged in a state system, and providers will work with the state to notify you when the second shot is ready.
If I’m not in phase 1A or phase 1B, when can I get a shot?
The vaccine is tentatively expected to be widely available to the public in late spring, but the state has not specified whether professions such as teachers and law enforcement will have priority when that happens.
How far along are we in getting McLennan County vaccinated?
As of Saturday, state data showed 19,409 McLennan County residents had received their first dose, or about 10% of the county’s over-16 population of 193,025. Meanwhile, an estimated 22,513 residents in McLennan County have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered, according to the health district.
Do I need to wear a mask and practice social distancing after I have received both doses?
Yes, that is the recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For most of the vaccines, it remains unknown whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus, even if they are protected from disease.
If I have recovered from COVID-19, do I still need a vaccination?
Yes, according to the CDC, “due to the health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible.” However, any COVID-19 patient who was treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma should wait 90 days.
Compiled by Managing Editor J.B. Smith. Sources: Waco-McLennan County Public Health District spokesperson Kelly Craine; covidwaco.com; Texas Department of State Health Services (https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus/immunize/vaccine.aspx); U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html)