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East Texas COVID-19 vaccination rate lags behind other areas of state

Fewer than 35% of people living in each East Texas county are fully vaccinated
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 5:44 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Over half of Texans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but here in East Texas, vaccination rates are lower on average than other regions of the state.

“It is true in the rural areas of East Texas, the 25, 30 counties surrounding the Tyler/Longview area the rates are lower,” Smith County Health Authority Dr. Paul McGaha said.

In each East Texas county, fewer than 35% of eligible people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Dr. McGaha says this is due in part to rural counties tending to have a lower vaccination rate than more densely populated counties.

“Access for medical care in rural areas is challenging anyway, so you add all of those things together, limited internet access, limited smartphone access, then there’s challenges for people getting that vaccine,” McGaha said.

McGaha says vaccination strategies continue to evolve now that the vaccine supply is enough to meet the demand.

“We’ve moved away from hub vaccinations to where the vaccine is disseminated in offices like it is with flu vaccine or tetanus or others and that’s a very good thing,” McGaha said.

In Smith County, East Texas’ highest populated county, 40% of people 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine. Looking at counties similar in size, McLennan County, home to Waco, 42.9% of people 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Brazos County, home to Bryan/College Station, 48%. Another factor keeping some from getting the shot − vaccine hesitancy.

“I think we can dispel the safety rumors because now we’ve given millions of doses across the country, and it’s been proven to be safe. I think perhaps in some rural areas that misinformation is out there to a greater degree. I hope people will refer to CDC and other sources for information, but it’s an amazingly effective vaccine,” McGaha said.

Looking ahead, McGaha says people who have already gotten a vaccine may need to get a booster shot either later this year or sometime next year.

“It’s looking like the vaccinations can hold immunity for longer than we thought, maybe upwards of a year, so we’re still monitoring that,” McGaha said.

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