AUSTIN (KXAN) — The coronavirus response effort is evolving in Texas as we enter into the first weekend of statewide reopening and expanded vaccine eligibility Monday. Many Central Texans are now shifting their focus to potential herd immunity.
The road to normalcy is a bit more in focus for Rochelle Hart.
“I’m going to a wedding in two weeks. My dearest friend’s grandson is getting married in Oklahoma, and I’m going to be able to go to the wedding, because most of them have had their vaccinations, and we are all wearing masks,” Hart explained.
The 84-year-old recently drove nine hours just to get her second vaccine and still hasn’t heard back from any of the Central Texas sites she signed up with. It was a long journey to even get an appointment, but now that she has both shots, there’s a small sense of relief.
“I felt like such a weight had been lifted when I got the second shot, and I still wear the masks, and I follow all the things we are supposed to do,” Hart said.
There’s still a long way to go, especially to reach herd immunity. To date, 12% of Texans have been fully vaccinated, while thousands sit on waiting lists.
Currently, Texas is averaging about 3,000 new cases a day compared to this time last month when we were seeing about 8,600.
Experts like Dr. Shelley Payne, director of the University of Texas at Austin’s LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease and professor of molecular biosciences, said we are still not close to herd immunity.
“I think it’s going to be late summer before we are at the point we can see the number of cases coming down to a level that’s manageable,” said Payne.
She said we need about 70 to 80% of people vaccinated or to have had the virus to reach that level.
Payne explained vaccinating workers, like school employees, who are in constant contact with many people, is critical to slowing the spread. Experts also said ensuring equitable access to the vaccine as well as important information to diverse communities is critical to move toward herd immunity.
“If we have a substantial number of people who don’t get vaccinated, then we won’t be able to achieve herd immunity,” Payne said.
Click here for a full list of Central Texas providers receiving COVID-19 vaccine doses next week.