COVID-19 vaccination rate rising amid surge in cases, hospitalizations

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Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 5:25 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - As East Texas COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb faster than at any point in the pandemic, vaccinations are trending upwards again. This comes after several weeks of decreasing vaccination rates.

Still, vaccination rates in East Texas lag behind other areas of the state.

In Smith County, 40% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. In more rural counties, the percentage of eligible people that are fully vaccinated is much lower.

“Some counties are still in the 20s. Upshur County 27%, Shelby 27%, and Panola County 26%, so we really need to bump those rates up, especially in some of those more rural East Texas counties,” Smith County Health Authority Dr. Paul McGaha said.

Over the last few weeks in all of those counties, vaccination rates have climbed once again. In Smith County, 3,189 doses were given last week. That’s a 10% increase from the week prior.

“I think what’s driving that increase is the Delta variant. People are seeing increased cases, they’re seeing hospitals fill up, they’re seeing some friends, family members contracting the Delta variant, and so some people who were kind of on the fence are now coming over and getting that vaccine,” McGaha said.

Hundreds of people are currently in East Texas hospitals with the virus. Dr. McGaha says the overwhelming majority of them have one thing in common − they were not vaccinated.

“Those individuals in the hospital are not saying I wish I had not taken the vaccine − they are adamantly wishing they had,” McGaha said.

Dr. McGaha says although rare, fully vaccinated people can still catch COVID-19, but it drastically reduces their chances of being hospitalized.

“Some people that are really against it change their mind when a loved one or someone close to them contracts it, when they’re put on a ventilator or something like that and that’s a tragic situation that can be easily prevented,” McGaha said.

For those holding off until the vaccines are given full approval by the FDA, McGaha says that will likely come in a few weeks, but he advises against waiting that long, considering the rapid spread in our community.

To view the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, click here.

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