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Austin-Travis County health officials say Covid vaccine data shows there’s still work to be done

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 by Jerry Quijano, KUT

More than three quarters of people age 65 and older in Austin-Travis County are fully vaccinated, public health officials said Tuesday. For the entire eligible population – that’s people 12 years and older – the number is more than 54 percent.

The area remains in stage 2 of Austin Public Health’s risk-based guidelines, and the city’s medical director says projections from the UT Austin Covid-19 Modeling Consortium show that’s likely to be the case for a while.

Dr. Desmar Walkes said that’s due in part to masks no longer being required in most places and life slowly returning to normal ahead of the summer months.

“There’s been a sense that we’re at the end of this (pandemic). We are not,” Walkes told a joint session of Austin City Council and Travis County commissioners, stressing that it’s never been easier to get a free vaccine.

Adrienne Stirrup, APH’s interim director, said data on vaccination rates broken down by race and ethnicity show there is still much work to be done.

“We’re still seeing numbers that need to improve in the Black and African American community,” she said.

Austin Public Health says there has been a bump in vaccination rates in the Black community after officials partnered with faith-based groups.

There was a bump in vaccination rates in this population after Austin Public Health partnered with faith-based groups. Stirrup says the health department is planning to host multiple vaccination events Friday and Saturday ahead of the Juneteenth holiday.

Precinct 4 Constable George Morales, who has spearheaded much of the work done by the county’s mobile vaccine strike team, says the focus continues to be on outreach and education so that “when our teams are out there, they can be more successful.”

As part of that work, they are hosting an event Saturday at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. that will be “strictly 100 percent educational.”

“It’s a scary process because some people are just unfamiliar with what we’ve got going on,” Morales said. “We are working to reach the hard-to-reach areas – those people with lack of transportation, lack of Wi-Fi, access to technology. Those are the areas of our focus and concern.”

Travis County officials will continue to offer Pfizer vaccines over the weekend at the Travis County Expo Center, so long as there is demand. More than 1,300 shots were administered at the drive-thru last weekend.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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