Dr. Jennifer Shuford is Texas’ chief state epidemiologist. She told Texas Standard that low vaccination rates in some parts of Texas are being noted at the same time as a rapid increase in the prevalence of the delta variant is also occurring. She thinks cases and hospitalizations will continue to increase because of these factors.
“The steepness of the increases is about what we saw with the first wave and the second wave of the pandemic,” Shuford said “And that really speaks to how contagious this particular strain of the virus is. Because even in the face of having 43% of our population vaccinated, we are still seeing this increase in cases happening as rapidly as we saw previously.”
Shuford says the delta variant is appearing all over the state. The risk is greatest in areas where vaccination rates are lowest.
“We also know that even within those big metropolises – the Houston area, the DFW [Dallas-Fort Worth] area – where, overall, they’ve got a good vaccine coverage going on, there are still specific areas or communities that might not have as great of a vaccine coverage.”
Shuford says letting Texans know that vaccines are widely available is an important message for public health officials to communicate.
In some areas, the rates of vaccination among people of color lag behind other populations, Shuford says.
“Those are places that we’re trying to really get extra messaging out to, to let them know the data – safety data and the efficacy data of these vaccines,” she said.
That messaging includes encouraging people to talk with their doctor to see if getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a good idea.
Shuford says the state has attempted to make vaccines widely available, including areas where vaccine rates have been low. Vaccines are available at pharmacies and in doctors’ offices now, rather than being limited to centralized hubs as they were during the early months of availability.
“We really think that we’ve managed to get them spread across Texas very evenly,” she said. “But people don’t always know about them, even if they are in their communities.”
Shuford says the highly contagious nature of the delta variant makes it especially important that people get both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“If they have a two-dose vaccine series, they really need to get that second dose to get full protection,” she said.