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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. “The more we can reduce transmission right now, the more we reduce the chance of new variants spreading and evading vaccination eorts,” Austin’s Chief Medical Ocials at Austin Public Health have used 67% vaccination of the population as the minimum benchmark necessary to approach herd immunity. But the actual threshold remains unclear. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has estimated herd immunity will come at a higher rate of vaccination—between 70% and 85%—but at an April White House press brieng encouraged people not to focus on specic rates. “Rather than concentrating on an elusive number, let’s get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can,” Fauci said. Other experts, including Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, executive director of the University of Texas at Austin’s COVID- 19 Modeling Consortium, 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 community spread of COVID-19 and its variants. Coronavirus infections among fully vaccinated individuals is rare—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 on May 18 that those individuals are around 20 times more likely to be reinfected with the virus than a vaccinated person. Around 40.56% of Texans were fully vaccinated as of June 20. In Central Texas, Travis County leads in vaccination rates, with roughly 51.83% of residents fully vaccinated. Barriers and hesitation Director Mark Escott said. The road to herd immunity TheFDA’sMay10decisiontoexpand the Pzer vaccine’s emergency use authorization to include 12-15 year olds could help close the gap. Dr. Andrew Cavanaugh, a pediatrician with Chisholm Trail Pediatrics in Williamson County, said
his patients have shown strong interest in getting their children vaccinated, although some have expressed doubts. He said the gradual ramping up of the vaccine’s availability gave patients time to warm up to the vaccine. “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. The reasoning of vaccine-hesitant individuals varies. Some cited logistical 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 so with my bills, [so] I will just take my chances.” Studies indicate that certain demographics are more likely to be hesitant to get a vaccine. In Sendero Health’s survey, respondents who were women, Latino or economically disadvantaged were less likely to say they would get a vaccine—although national data has shown women to be slightly more likely to get a shot than men. Blackpatients showed thegreatest hesitation and were 47% more likely to say they would not get vaccinated. According to Jerey Travillion, commissioner for Travis County Precinct 1, hesitancy among Black community members is tied to the lack of access tomedical resources and infrastructure in the areas wheremany of themlive. InTravis 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 vaccine, 65 of them were on the west side of I-35. It is not that segregation is a relic of an old generation: Segregation and lack of access to equity is the reality today,” Travillion said. But he said trusted community institutions have stepped up, such as Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which organized to hold clinics on-site. In Southeast Austin, Austin’s District 2 Council Member Vanessa Fuentes said hesitancy among her constituents, who are 70% Latino, tends to be rooted in misinformation. Fuentes has emphasized the value of neighborhood-based vaccine
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 Exemption rates for standard childhood vaccinations—such as for measles, polio and tetanus—trend higher for Central Texas kids in grades K-12 than the state at large. These rates do not include the Pzer coronavirus vaccine, which is approved for children 12 and up. Some area health care professionals said these rates may rise for the COVID-19 vaccine. Immunization exemptions in 2019-20 school year:
outreach to foster direct dialogue with communitymembers, includingpop-up clinics sponsored by organizations such as the Del Valle Community Coalition. She also favors oering incentives. “Anything we can do to make it easier for folks and make folks want to get the vaccine is where our focus should be,” Fuentes said. Building access 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 Central Austin—roughly a month after all adults become eligible. ACC’s clinic was the rst convenient opportunity to become vaccinated, she said. “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. The team at Kendra’s COVID Coaches has gone directly to businesses, reaching out to encourage themto allowresidents time o for vaccinations, a privilege not aorded to many essential workers. “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.
SOURCE: TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICESCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
THEREWILLBEPLENTYOF PEOPLETHATVACCINATE THEIRKIDS INGENERALFOR ILLNESSESBUTDECLINEDTO VACCINATEFORCOVID19, ATLEAST INITIALLY.
DR. ANDREW CAVANAUGH, PEDIATRICIAN AT CHISHOLM TRAIL PEDIATRICS IN GEORGETOWN
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SOUTHWEST AUSTIN DRIPPING SPRINGS EDITION • JUNE 2021
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