January 7, 2021
Infusion Center opens in Southeast Austin, giving underserved communities access to potentially lifesaving COVID-19 treatment
(Austin) – Starting Thursday, Jan. 7, Central Health-affiliated CommUnityCare Health Centers will begin vaccinating against the coronavirus a prioritized group of its patients who are 65 and older and those with at least one chronic medical condition. These patients are consistent with those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine under Phase 1B guidance provided by the State and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CommUnityCare has temporarily reopened its Rosewood-Zaragosa Health Center in East Austin as a COVID-19 vaccine site seeing patients by appointment only – no walk-ins. CommUnityCare is scheduling a small number of its patients qualified under Phase 1B to receive the vaccine; however, the total number of patients eligible under this phase far exceeds the number of vaccine doses received by CommUnityCare to date. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) approves which providers can administer vaccines and controls supplies for the entire state including Travis County. CommUnityCare has registered all of its sites to receive and administer the vaccine.
“CommUnityCare is eager to get more vaccines,” Jaeson Fournier, CommUnityCare CEO said. “Just like with our COVID-19 testing, PPE and flu shot distribution, CommUnityCare is focused on serving its patients and supporting access to the coronavirus vaccine for Travis County’s most vulnerable residents. We want to get our patients and most vulnerable residents vaccinated as quickly as possible. Following state and federal guidelines, we started by vaccinating our health care workforce and are now expanding our COVID-19 vaccination efforts to include our patients qualified under Phase 1B.”
COVID-19 vaccines are in short supply in Travis County. The Austin area has been slated to receive 59,825 doses to date, but there 1.2 million residents in Travis County. CommUnityCare has so far received only 2,100 vaccines.
“Central Health and CommUnityCare are planning with Austin Public Health and other partners to open large-scale vaccination clinics as quickly as possible, which will serve people with low income and without health insurance,” said Mike Geeslin, Central Health President and CEO. “While we cannot control vaccine supply, we can advocate for equitable distribution as we get more vaccines. We are focused on people in ZIP codes hit hardest by the pandemic – including Latino and African American populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”
Infusion Center opens at Central Health’s Southeast Health & Wellness Center
On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Central Health-affiliated CommUnityCare Health Centers and Austin Public Health (APH) began referring qualifying COVID-positive patients for monoclonal antibody infusions, a potentially lifesaving treatment for COVID-19. The new mobile infusion center is located at Central Health Southeast Health & Wellness Center, 2901 Montopolis Dr, Austin. The center was established through a partnership among Travis County, the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), the City of Austin, and the Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council and others.
“Travis County, Austin Public Health, Central Health, and CommUnityCare are focused on providing care for our community’s most vulnerable residents—the uninsured, low-income and communities of color—and we are glad to see this infusion center come to Southeast Austin where it’s needed most,” said Margaret Gomez, Travis County Commissioner, Precinct 4.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first authorized monoclonal antibodies for use in early treatment for COVID-19 last November. The treatment can be lifesaving, especially if given timely, and it has shown to help reduce COVID-related hospitalization in patients at high risk of developing severe complications. The first-of-its-kind mobile infusion center is a converted mobile intensive care unit, and will initially serve 20 patients a day, with the ability to expand to 40 patients per day.
“Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are at an all-time high,” said Yvonne Camarena, a registered nurse who is Chief Operating Officer for CommUnityCare. “The primary goal is to keep people from getting the virus. If they do get it, our goal is to try and manage symptoms to reduce the chances of it developing into a more severe situation, like hospitalization, an emergency room visit, or the need for a ventilator.”
To benefit from and be eligible for the antibody infusions, patients must meet very specific criteria set by the State. APH and CommUnityCare will identify eligible patients through their testing sites, then provide a prioritized list of COVID-positive patients to the infusion center staffed by doctors and nurses contracted by the State.