Wednesday, May 12, 2021 by Seth Smalley

Vaccination in the county continues to soar, as FDA approves Pfizer for kids

The Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council convened Tuesday to receive updates from interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott on the Covid-19 vaccination progress in the region.

Thirty-eight percent of individuals in Travis County were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, while 13 percent of individuals were partially vaccinated. Just over half the county, 51 percent of residents, have received at least one vaccine.

“As you can see, we’re making significant progress,” Escott told the joint council, but not before cautioning the commissioners and Council members that 30 percent of individuals in the county are estimated to still be vulnerable.

That number was determined by adding the percentage of vaccinated individuals, the percentage of known Covid cases and an estimated projection of the number of unreported cases. The resulting percentage was then subtracted from 100.

“This assumes no overlap between those who’ve had Covid disease and those who’ve been vaccinated. It’s not clear how much overlap it is. Though looking at our internal numbers, there does not seem to be a lot of overlap between those two,” Escott said.

The moving average of Covid cases for the week was 68, a 23 percent decrease from last week. Sunday and Monday of this week saw 19 and 101 cases, respectively. “Again, we’re continuing in that downward direction,” he noted.

The vaccine, Escott explained, provides broader immunity. Even if a person has the antibodies due to a prior case of Covid, there is still a benefit to getting vaccinated.

As Austin approaches the 70 percent mark of combined “disease and vaccination” – as Escott put it – it’s likely we’ll start to see changes in the disease trend.

“Probably the first to reach more than 50 percent of the population vaccinated – that has also shared data – is Israel.” Escott said. “We’ve also seen a similar impact in El Paso, which had a 50 percent drop in new Covid cases after they exceeded 50 percent of the population vaccinated.”

Escott also touched on the effort to vaccinate 12- to 15-year-olds. The FDA has recently expanded the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to this age group.

A randomized placebo-controlled trial of 2,600 young people found a 100 percent efficacy rate for the vaccine. In the control group, 16 kids developed Covid, while no one from the vaccinated group contracted the disease. Side effects from the vaccine were consistent with what older groups have experienced, including headaches, tiredness and pain at the injection site, according to the study.

“The bottom line is, it’s a very, very effective vaccine and a very safe vaccine,” Escott said. “I hope we can get our kids vaccinated and move forward in our quest for herd immunity.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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