With half of eligible Texans still unvaccinated and supply exceeding demand, Texas shifts COVID-19 vaccination strategies

FILE - This April 15, 2021, file photo syringes filled with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are shown at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation center in Jackson Memorial hospital in Miami. With vaccination rates lagging in red states, Republican leaders have begun stepping up efforts to persuade their supporters to get the shot, at times combating misinformation spread by some of their own.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
FILE - This April 15, 2021, file photo syringes filled with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are shown at the Christine E. Lynn Rehabilitation center in Jackson Memorial hospital in Miami. With vaccination rates lagging in red states, Republican leaders have begun stepping up efforts to persuade their supporters to get the shot, at times combating misinformation spread by some of their own. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

At its peak, the mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex in Williamson County was administering about 4,000 doses per day.

Now it’s half that.

County health officials will close the North Austin drive-thru hub in mid-May, shifting the responsibility to a growing number of doctors, pharmacies, public health offices and other smaller providers who have closer relationships with and easier access to the county’s estimated 200,000 eligible residents who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated.

“We’re still moving along,” said Jen Stratton, director of communications for Family Hospital Systems in Williamson County, which partners with the county to run the hub. “Our focus is just changing.”

It’s part of a new approach by health officials across the state to get vaccines moving again as Texas confronts the next chapter in its massive vaccine rollout: Its first dip in demand and glut in supply since vaccinations began last winter.

On Friday, Texas health officials sent letters to the state’s nearly 8,000 registered vaccine providers that some 280,000 doses would be coming into the state’s warehouse next week and are up for grabs.

Starting this week, the state will start only asking the federal government for doses that providers have ordered, as opposed to asking for as much as they can get, an agency spokesperson said.

“I encourage you to consider what you can do to make one more big push to quickly vaccinate those who are willing,” read a letter from the Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt to vaccine providers on Friday. “This is our path out of the pandemic and back to normal lives.”