IN-DEPTH: Residents in just 4 Texas counties willing to get vaccine at rate high enough to ‘return to normal’

Texas Coronavirus Vaccine

AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are just four counties in Texas willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine at a rate high enough for us to end the pandemic and “approach some level of normality,” and three of them are in Central Texas. That rate is approximately 80%, according to infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“If we get that, we would develop an umbrella of immunity that would be able to protect even the vulnerable who have not been vaccinated or those in which the vaccine has not been effective,” Fauci said in December on CNBC.

In most of Texas, however, more than a third of the population would likely choose not get the COVID-19 vaccine even if it were offered today, according to survey results from Carnegie Mellon’s COVIDcast and conducted by the Delphi Group. The MIT Technology Review and the Dallas Morning News also highlighted the problem in Texas.

In Travis County, 85.3% of the population would get the vaccine today if it could. Two other Central Texas counties — Hays and Williamson — have seen vaccine acceptance rates spike in the past week, from 75.6% and 77.8% respectively a week ago, up to 82.1% and 81.9% as of Friday, second and third most in the state.

In El Paso County, which has been the Texas county hit hardest by COVID-19, 80.5% of the population would choose to get the vaccine today if possible, slightly down from a week ago.

No other Texas county is above 80% in vaccine acceptance, and just ten of 254 counties are above 75% statewide.

Counties where more than 75% of population would “definitely” or “probably” get COVID-19 vaccine if it were offered today:

  • 85.3% – Travis County
  • 82.1% – Hays County
  • 81.9% – Williamson County
  • 80.5% – El Paso County
  • 78.8% – Webb County
  • 78.1% – Fort Bend County
  • 77.6% – Collin County
  • 77.0% – Brazos County
  • 76.7% – Denton County
  • 75.2% – Nueces County

Fauci said if more people don’t opt in to getting the vaccine, it would be hard to get back to where we were before the pandemic by the end of the year. He said that’s why you’re seeing lawmakers and celebrities getting their vaccines in public, to show that the vaccines are safe and try to get that vaccine acceptance rate higher than 80%.

“You can get that kind of immunity with that percentage of people, which is the reason we’re being enthusiastic in reaching out to the community to convince people of the importance of getting vaccinated, not only for their own safety, but for that of their family as well as for society in general,” Fauci said.

Vaccines potentially less effective against new strains

Fauci said on Thursday that new data shows that current COVID-19 vaccines might be less effective against new, more contagious strains of the virus that are emerging overseas.

“We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle,” Fauci said.

Fauci said even if that turns out to be true that the current vaccines are less effective, that simply means it’s all the more important people get vaccinated and don’t choose to skip the vaccine once it’s more widely available.

He said the efficacy rate of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine were so high — north of 95% effective — that it created a bit of a “cushion effect in terms of overall effectiveness as the virus mutates.

“Bottom line,” Fauci said, “We’re paying very close attention to it. There are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine. That’s not something that is a very onerous thing, we can do that given the platforms we have.”

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