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groups and physicians. Working in conjunction to reach these pockets of vaccine-hesitant Texans, they hope to boost vaccination rates past the threshold for herd immunity. In light of emerging virus variants that threaten to upend recovery from COVID-19, there is pressure to reach that goal as soon as possible. “Themore we can reduce transmis- sion right now, the more we reduce the chance of new variants, spread- ing and evading vaccination eorts,” Austin’s Chief Medical Director Mark Escott said. The road to herd immunity Ocials at Austin Public Health have used 67% vaccination of the pop- ulation as the minimum benchmark necessary to approach herd immu- nity. But the actual threshold remains unclear. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infec- tious Diseases, has estimated herd immunity will come at a higher rate of vaccination, but at an April White House press brieng encouraged peo- ple not to focus on specic rates. “We’ve made estimates that it is somewhere between 70% and 85%, but we don’t know that as a fact,” Fauci said. “So that rather than con- centrating on an elusive number, let’s get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can.” Other experts, including Dr. Lau- ren Ancel Meyers, executive director of the University of Texas at Austin’s COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, a network of researchers and epidemi- ologists, have said herd immunity is unlikely. Regardless, Meyers has said publicly that faster vaccination will help the virus subside by reducing the number of infections and commu- nity spread of COVID-19 and its vari- ants. Coronavirus infections among fully vaccinated individuals is rare— only around 0.02% have proceeded to catch the virus in the Austin area, according to APH data. While people who have contracted COVID-19 have antibodies against the virus and may contribute to herd immunity, Escott said they may not be as long-lasting as antibodies from a vaccine, and are around 20 times more likely to be reinfected with the virus than a vaccinated person. Around 36.53% of Texans were fully vaccinated as of June 2. In Central Texas, Travis County leads in vaccination rates with
roughly 47.5% of residents fully vac- cinated as of June 2. Barriers and hesitation The FDA’s May 10 decision to expand the Pzer vaccine’s emergency use authorization to include 12-15 year olds could help close the gap. Dr. Andrew Cavanaugh, a pediatri- cian with Chisholm Trail Pediatrics in Williamson County, said his patients have shown strong interest in getting their children vaccinated. Some have also expressed doubts or distaste in surveys, but Cavanaugh said the grad- ual ramping up of the vaccine’s avail- ability gave patients time to warm up to the vaccine. “I’m kind of glad that the supply has been the way it has. In some ways, I think it’s been benecial, because it has allowed a slow phasing in of this vaccine that people can kind of see what happened to the ‘guinea pigs,’ if you will,” Cavanaugh said. Vaccine-hesitant individuals’ rea- soning varies. Some cited logisti- cal barriers, such as Betty Kent, a 65-year-old New Braunfels resident who runs a home-cleaning business. Kent received her rst dose of the Moderna vaccine and had u-like side eects that caused her to miss ve days of work. “I will not return for the second shot,” Kent said. “No one paid me, and I had to suer with my bills, [so] I will just take my chances.” Studies indicate that certain demo- graphics are more likely to be hesitant to get a vaccine. In Sendero Health’s survey, respondentswhowerewomen, Hispanic and Latino or economically disadvantaged were all less likely to say they would choose to get a vac- cine—although national vaccination data has shown women to be slightly more likely to get a shot than men. Black patients showed the greatest hesitation and were 47%more likely to say they would not get vaccinated. According to Jerey Travillion, commissioner for Travis County Pre- cinct 1, hesitancy among Black com- munity members is tied to a lack of access to medical resources and infra- structure in the areas where many of them live. In Travis County’s Eastern Crescent, vaccine clinics were few and far between during the county’s initial vaccine rollout, he said. “When you opened the rst 74 places where you could get the vac- cine, 65 of themwere on the west side
Central Texas health care organization Sendero Health surveyed 9,000 of its patients across nine area counties to gauge their willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021. Of the 1,600 respondents, 64.1% said they denitely planned to get a vaccine. Here is how their responses broke down along demographic lines:
YES, I’LL GET VACCINATED Black/African Americans Hispanic/ Latinos
High school diploma or less
Bachelor’s degree or greater
Amy Lipke of New Braunfels receives her second vaccine dose.
SOURCE: SENDERO HEALTH PLANS COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
LAUREN CANTERBERRYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
Gaps Vaccination Most Central Texas counties see higher immunization exemption rates than the state for standard childhood vaccinations in children in grades K-12. Some area health care professionals said these rates may rise for the COVID-19 vaccine. The rates below do not apply to the u vaccine or the Pzer COVID-19 vaccine, which was approved for children age 12 and older May 10. Immunization exemptions in 2019-20 school year: HAYS COUNTY
of I-35. It is not that segregation is a relic of an old generation; segregation and lack of access to equity is the real- ity today,” Travillion said. In response, he said trusted com- munity institutions have stepped up, including prominent churches such as Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church and St. James Missionary Baptist Church, which both organized to hold clinics For some Central Texas residents, accessibility has proven the key to making a vaccine appointment. Dulce Medina, a student at Austin Community College, received her rst dose April 30 at a vaccine clinic on ACC’s Highland Campus in North Cen- tral Austin—roughly a month after all adults became eligible. She was one of 800 ACC students, sta and family members to receive a Pzer dose that day, along with her aunt, whom she brought with her. “This is the rst time [I’ve tried to get a dose], because my friends have had trouble nding other places that will give it to them,” Medina said. Wright and her team have gone directly to businesses, reaching out to encourage them to allow residents time o to get vaccinated, a privilege not aorded tomany essential workers. at their facilities. Building access “When you start feeling like you’re probably moving the needle because you’ve helped so many people, you just can’t help but want to do more of it,” Wright said.
2.51% 2.31% 3.18% 1.35%
SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
I THINK THAT NUMBER . . . IS THE FLOOR. THEREWILL BE PLENTYOF PEOPLE THAT VACCINATE THEIR KIDS INGENERAL FOR ILLNESSES BUT DECLINED TOVACCINATE FOR COVID, AT LEAST INITIALLY. DR. ANDREW CAVANAUGH, PEDIATRICIAN AT CHISHOLM TRAIL PEDIATRICS IN GEORGETOWN
Read the full version at communityimpact.com .
LAKE TRAVIS WESTLAKE EDITION • JUNE 2021
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