Vaccine doing its job, officials say
The challenges continue for local officials working to encourage unvaccinated Caldwell County residents to get their COVID-19 vaccine amid a sea of disinformation about the vaccine’s effectiveness, necessity, and safety.
Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden has a simple message for people claiming to be public health experts who have taken to social media to share beliefs ranging from natural immunity negating the need for inoculation to the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 signaling the shot’s perceived ineffectiveness.
Good luck and best wishes.
“If you are a self-proclaimed expert on vaccines, I wish you well and I hope you don’t catch it,” Haden said. “Because if you aren’t taking the vaccine, you have a great chance of getting seriously ill. These are just statistical facts.
“I don’t get paid when people get vaccines. I’m not going to get re-elected if you get the vaccine. I took an oath, and there is nothing in it for me except for helping protect people’s health and well-being.”
The vaccines — made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson — have each received emergency use authorization in the United States and clinical trials have showed each of the three to be effective in preventing people from getting sick from COVID-19.
While there are several local providers offering the vaccines for free (Express Pharmacy in Lockhart, H-E-B, Walgreens, and Walmart, with details available on the Caldwell County website) the county will host a clinic on Monday through which vaccines (and potentially testing) will be made available.
Further details were not available at press time, although Haden said citizens could keep an eye on the Caldwell County website at co.caldwell.tx.us for further updates.
The vaccination rate has increased in Caldwell County over the past week, as it has statewide.
At press time Tuesday, 53.8% (+1.63% from last week) of Caldwell County residents ages 12 and up have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and 44.18% (+.63%) are considered fully vaccinated, according to Texas Department of State Health Services data. In the age 65-plus category, 69.89% have been fully vaccinated in Caldwell County.
Statewide, the vaccination rate for fully vaccinated folks ages 12 and up is 52.97%.
The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only one available to people ages 12-18.
But the improved vaccination data in Texas is offset by harrowing nationwide new case data.
“As of Saturday, CDC reported the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 cases to be about 72,000 cases per day,” said Centers for Disease Control Prevention Director Dr. Rachelle Walensky at a White House press briefing Monday. “This represents an increase of 44 percent from the prior seven-day average and higher than our peak of last summer.
“The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 6,200 per day, an increase of about 41 percent from the prior seven-day period. And seven-day average daily deaths have also increased to 300 per day — an increase of more than 25 percent from the previous seven-day period.”
Locally, Haden said the state of emergency room beds in area hospitals was dire, further underscoring the need to be vaccinated.
“People I’ve spoken to who are vaccinated who get COVID have had it so mild, that they thought they had allergies because the only thing they had were the sniffles. It decreases the probability that you will feel ill,” Haden said. ”People who have been hospitalized haven’t had the vaccine. And as of this weekend, there were only two ICU beds available in Ascension hospitals.
“The difference between this summer and last summer is last summer, the hospitals had shut down. They weren’t allowing elective surgeries. If you went to the ER, they treated you and sent you on your way. It’s not like that this year. There are beds filled with people who don’t have COVID.”
The CDC is recommending vaccinated and unvaccinated people in areas with high transmission rates — which includes Caldwell County and roughly two-thirds of the United States — wear masks indoors in public to prevent the spread of the alpha and delta variants.
The vaccine still prevents an individual’s best chance of avoiding severe illness, hospitalization and death from either the alpha or delta variants.
While some vaccine dissidents and natural immunity proponents are pointing to the case of Barnstable County in Massachusetts, where 73 percent of 934 new July cases were among people who were fully vaccinated, Walensky said the numbers were proof that the vaccine was doing its job, even with the more contagious delta variant of the disease spreading among the general population and that year-old public health guidelines still held up.
“With 73 percent of these infections in people who were vaccinated, there were only seven hospitalizations and no deaths. Our vaccines did exactly what they were supposed to do: prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” Walensky said. “Furthermore, as cases increased, local public health officials implemented a package of public health prevention strategies, including increased testing, contact tracing, and indoor mask wearing. And within two weeks, test positivity fell from a peak of 15.1 percent to 4.6 percent. Public health prevention strategies work.”
Local authorities are unable to impose mask mandates due to an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott, including requiring government employees to wear them. However, businesses are free to impose their own mask requirements, a Wednesday post on the City of Lockhart webpage reminds citizens.
“Vaccines are readily available in Lockhart. No matter where you go, whether it be a pharmacy, grocery store or your doctor’s office, there will be a dose ready for you,” said Lockhart Mayor Lew White in the post. “Be responsible and do your part to stop the spread.”