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Thousands of Texans vaccinated on first day of expanded eligibility

The Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex was crowded for another drive-thru mass vaccination event Monday, where thousands were able to receive their first doses.

AUSTIN, Texas — Approximately 3,500 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were available without an appointment for essential workers and people older than 80 at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex off West Parmer Lane on Monday. The drive-thru mass vaccination event was operated by Family Hospital Systems and several volunteers.

"I cannot stress enough [that] on a normal day here at Kelly Reeves, we do require appointments," said Jen Stratton, the communications director for Family Hospital Systems. "Today was a simple one-off where we had – we knew we had a larger than normal amount of extra doses. And so, that's why we said no appointments are needed so that we could serve as many people as possible in a short amount of time."

She explained that starting Tuesday, appointments will again be required. 

"But also, [we want to] make sure that we are putting shots in arms, not wasting a single drop and helping to do our part to kick COVID out of Williamson County in Texas," Stratton said. "We will be operating again tomorrow [Tuesday] morning at nine o'clock. Appointments will be required, but we are expecting a crowd similar to this tomorrow. We will also be doing our second doses for those who received their first dose 28 to 44 days ago starting on Wednesday and Thursday."

People who were able to get a dose Monday, like Travis County resident Dauphin Ewart, called it a relief. 

“I’m just really relieved that I was able to get it today," Ewart said, adding, "My parents were able to get it earlier which was a huge relief, and so now to be in the vaccinated group is just a massive relief."

Credit: Luis de Leon
Cars crowd into the parking lot of the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex Monday to recieve a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The event was held on the same day that all Texans 16 and older became eligible to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Austin Public Health (APH) opened its vaccine portal Monday night for appointments, which it said were filled by around 8 p.m. APH plans to release more appointments on Thursday, April 1. 

In an email to KVUE, an APH spokesperson said in part:

"There are currently 454,292 individuals registered for the vaccine with APH. While anyone can register for the vaccine through APH, we are continuing to focus on age and severe risk with 1A/1B/1C for the appointment release this evening. The total number eligible for this evening, but have not scheduled a first dose appointment is 267,257 individuals. It is important to note though, we believe many of those individuals have received a vaccine from a different provider, and will be releasing an update to our portal system soon to allow them to update their accounts with that information. This will give APH a much better snapshot of those who are still in need of a vaccine."

The Texas Department of State Health Services also launched its Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler early Monday morning. It's a website that gives people a single place to sign up for a vaccine through multiple public health departments.

To sign up, click here.

WATCH: All Texans over the age of 16 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine

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