Bexar County, Texas, boasts a growing population of over one and a half million residents age 12 and up, and over 1,241,000 of those residents have been vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Surprisingly though, only 1,028,077 residents, or 61.9%, are fully vaccinated, according to San Antonio’s Metropolitan Health District as of July 13.
This means approximately 10% of those who received one dose of a two dose COVID-19 vaccine series did not go back for their second dose.
The new public health director at Metro Health, Claude A. Jacob, said they are constantly monitoring the situation.
Vaccination rates in Bexar County are keeping up with national averages, but one in 10 people have not returned for their second dose in the county, he said.
U.S. Air Force Col. Heather C. Yun, deputy commander for Medical Services at Brooke Army Medical Center, is also concerned about those with incomplete vaccinations.
“The bottom line is that protection against COVID-19 isn’t as good with only one dose of a two-dose vaccine,” she said. “The immune response has been shown to be strengthened after the second dose, and the ability to prevent COVID–19 increases from the 60 to 80% range to over 90%.”
Yun also said fully vaccinated people are far less likely to become seriously ill or to die from the disease.
“They are also much less likely to transmit infection to their families and communities,” she said. “It’s only after the second dose of an mRNA, two dose, vaccine that a person can be considered fully vaccinated, so if only one dose has been accomplished, then the individual should continue to wear masks until two weeks following that second dose.
“It’s especially important now, with numbers increasing again in the community and the local emergence of variant virus, to make sure we take advantage of the full protection that these vaccines can offer,” Yun said.
Another concern for local health officials is the number of ‘long haulers’ who continue to need care for conditions caused by COVID-19.
“Although most people with COVID-19 get better within weeks of illness, some people experience post-COVID conditions,” according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Even people who did not have COVID-19 symptoms in the days or weeks after they were infected can have post-COVID conditions. These conditions can have different types and combinations of health problems for different lengths of time.”
As cases in Bexar County continue to rise, officials are urging those who are not fully vaccinated to schedule their second dose, and those who are not vaccinated to strongly consider doing so.
“We have been running this race for a long time. Don’t stop just before the finish line,” Yun said with urgency. “The great news is that even if you are overdue for a second dose, you do not need to restart the series. Schedule your second dose, or your first, today.”
Dr. Bryan Alsip, chief medical officer at University Health System, said during the city’s COVID-19 press conference July 14 that nationally, of inpatients with COVID-19, 99% of them are unvaccinated, and 95% of current COVID-19 inpatients at University Health are not fully vaccinated. He also stated hospitalizations in Bexar County have increased more than 57% in the last week.
In addition to getting or completing the COVID-19 vaccine, Alsip said there are other ways community members can continue to do their part to prevent the spread of the disease within the community.
Utilizing layers of protection, getting vaccinated, wearing masks, washing your hands and maintaining distance are all factors in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said, noting these measures are vital to those with compromised immune systems who may not have a full defense against the disease even with the vaccine as well as children who are too young to be vaccinate.
After more than a year of quarantines, teleworking, homeschooling, and extensive illnesses across the country, it is important to remember it is not over until it’s over, and, according to San Antonio Metro Health, COVID-19 is far from being over.
As of July 14, the moving 7-day average of new cases in Bexar County was 265, and there were 258 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, with 81 of those in intensive care units.
Of note in San Antonio’s July 14 reporting was a positivity rate of 11.2%, as well as six new deaths within the previous week.
Beating COVID-19 is dependent on everyone, Jacob said, and he is counting on the citizens of Bexar County to make that happen.
“I truly believe it takes a village to raise a healthy community,” he said. “Do it for you, do it for your family, do it for SA."