Metro Health director nixes central registry for vaccine sign-ups

Colleen Bridger tells D9′s John Courage citywide registry is “not a best practice”

SAN ANTONIO – With more than half of Bexar County eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, many residents have experienced the frustration of trying to snag one of the limited appointments as they become available, including city council members.

“My wife and I have probably made a thousand phone calls on several days trying to get our own appointment,” District 9 Councilman John Courage said during a Thursday city council meeting.

Courage used the opportunity to once again call for a citywide, central registry for which residents could sign up and be notified when it’s their turn to get the shot.

Currently, residents must try to call or register online at each of the individual vaccine providers whenever new doses become available.

A central registry, Courage argued, would help residents feel secure in the knowledge they’d eventually be in line to get vaccinated.

“We need to be able to reassure them that they will be contacted by call or email when their time comes to receive the vaccine. They’ll know where to go, they’ll know when to go and what to be prepared for when they get there,” Courage said.

However, Assistant City Manager and interim San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Director Colleen Bridger said she did not recommend such a course and that it’s “not a best practice.”

“It’s not a technological challenge. It’s a psychological challenge,” Bridger told Courage. “Once people are in the registry, it doesn’t release their anxiety. Then their anxiety turns to, ‘well, I’m registered, when am I going to get my shot?’ And so that is based on conversations with other big city health departments who have tried and abandoned registries.”

Courage pointed to other cities with registries, including Austin, which has a pre-registration system that gives a heads up to certain groups before appointments become available through Austin Public Health, or Dallas, where the county opens up appointments to a limited number of people who prioritized based on a “vulnerability index.”

Bridger, though, called registries a “short-term balm on a wound that continues to fester.”

“Places who have started registries, including Austin, have said this is not an effective way to address the angst and the anxiety and to effectively communicate to people about the fact that we are in it for the long haul,” Bridger said.

An Austin Public Health spokeswoman, however, told KSAT “by and large the system that we’re using seems seems to be working for the outcome that we want.”

RELATED: How to register for the COVID-19 vaccine in San Antonio when appointments are available


About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.