Nearly 50% of the eligible population in Bexar County and the surrounding area have received at least one vaccination against COVID-19, but more needs to be done, health officials said.
According to figures current at press time, of the 1.9 million inhabitants in the greater San Antonio area, 781,524, or 40.58%, are fully vaccinated.
An estimated 951,867, or 49.43%, people have had one dose of the double-shot vaccine to limit the spread of a novel coronavirus that triggered a planetwide pandemic a year and a half ago that has killed millions.
Scientists say more vaccinations create herd immunity and give the virus nowhere to go.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by late June 65% of the U.S. population was partially vaccinated; in Texas, that number was 56%.
In spite of the rising numbers, there remain many people on the fence about taking shots, and labs have required additional research to determine if vaccines used by adults are safe for adolescents.
Attendance at clinics has also slowed in the past few weeks, as those who wanted the vaccine have gotten inoculated.
Now it’s a question of getting others to show up who are not so sure.
“We have plenty of work to do to get everyone vaccinated, but I’m pleased that we’re keeping pace with every major metro area in Texas,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “I’m impressed with the pop-up program that (Metropolitan Health District) is coordinating to meet people where they live in order to equitably and completely distribute our regional vaccine supply.”
The mayor said he realizes there are many residents who still have questions or concerns about getting the shots.
“This targeted rollout phase will be critical in developing trust with San Antonio residents who may be a little more hesitant to get the jab,” he added. “If we continue to build that trust and visit every neighborhood in our community, we will be able to avoid another surge.”
The number of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic nationwide is staggering.
More than 600,000 people have fallen prey to the virus and its complications, according to the CDC. And many more – who are not vaccinated — are expected to succumb to the disease in the coming months, officials said.
In Bexar County, according to Metro Health, nearly 3,600 people have died from COVID-19. Of that number, 53% were females.
According to city figures, 56% of people with COVID-19 cases in Bexar County were males and 46% were females. Fewer than 1% of those under age 19 died from COVID-19 while 91% of recorded fatalities were 50 or older.
Anyone age 12 and over can be vaccinated.
Vaccine developers are currently conducting tests to determine proper dosing, efficacy and safety to inoculate youngsters from 2 to 12 years of age.
By mid-June, University Health System had vaccinated 15,500 youths ages 12-17, officials said.
Locally, Metro Health, UHS and WellMed Medical Management and the WellMed Charitable Foundation have administered vaccines across Bexar County.
The vaccinations are free to all. No insurance is required.
George B. Hernandez Jr., president and CEO of UHS, said, “Getting people vaccinated has been an important objective for UH since we received the vaccine in late December 2020.”
UHS will continue to offer the Pfizer vaccine at the Robert B. Green Campus Pharmacy, 903 W. Martin St., on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays for those 12 and older.
Metro Health offers vaccinations in a variety of pop-up locations across the community.
Find a vaccine site at https://tinyurl.com/3whxreth.
Metro Health is also offering incentives to those who get vaccinated – with a ticket to Six Flags Fiesta Texas for each vaccination at the Alamodome or pop-up clinics, plus free Fiesta medals at pop-up locations, while supplies last.
A spokesman for Metro Health said, “Our vaccination rate is pretty evenly tied with Houston’s, and second to Austin’s, when we look at big cities in Texas.”
While experts agree San Antonio is on the right track, there is still concern over those who refuse to be vaccinated.
That includes parents who resist having their children get shots.
One parent, who asked that her name not be used, said she is not planning to get her two sons — both over the age of 12 — inoculated.
“I just think there needs to be more testing to prove the shots are safe for my kids,” added the mother, who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the Metro Health official, “To persuade people who are still on the fence, it’s more about one-on-one conversations at this stage, and public health can’t do that alone.”
He urged people to check out the CDC’s suggestions on talking to those who are vaccine resistant by visiting https://tinyurl.com/42y8y46j.
New, more transmissible strains of the virus could prove even more harmful to those who haven’t taken the jab, he warned.
For more on COVID-19, go to www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has opened a COVID-19 Hotline for residents to ask questions about the virus. The hotline is available in English and Spanish. Residents can call 311 or 210-207-6000 and select option 8. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday.