TYLER, Texas (KETK) — About 31% of the population of Smith County has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, NET Health CEO George Roberts told Tyler City Council on Wednesday.
Roberts provided new information about COVID-19 in the county and vaccination efforts.
COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are down considerably from earlier this year and the number of people getting vaccinations increases every day, he said.
“We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Roberts, noting many reasons to be optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is over. “We are in the fourth quarter (in the battle against COVID-19) but we Texans are all too aware that games are sometimes lost in the fourth quarter.”
According to information presented by Roberts, in Smith County:
- 31% or residents 16 and older have had one dose
- 19% are fully vaccinated (Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses; the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose)
- 63% of seniors 65 and older have received one dose
- 44% of seniors are fully vaccinated.
“As of Monday, there were 48 East Texans in Tyler hospitals,” Roberts said. “That is significantly down from mid-January when we had well over 300 in the hospital — so great progress there.”
About 290 county residents have died from COVID-19, he said.
“We are now over one year into this journey since I announced the first cases (of COVID-19 in Smith County). So where are we now? The picture continues to be much brighter.”
He stressed that access to getting vaccinations continues to improve. Earlier this year, there were long waiting lists to get a shot but that no longer is the case.
Roberts said that to continue to lower COVID-19 infections people need to “remember the things we have been talking about.” The precautions include:
- staying home when you are sick
- avoiding crowds
- practicing social distancing
- washing your hands often
- wearing a mask.
Roberts said health agencies are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and that there needs to be more efforts to reach Black and Hispanic populations.
Over the last five months, slightly more than 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been given in Smith County. NET Health and UT Health both operate vaccination hubs in Smith County. Some pharmacies and clinics also provide shots.
Roberts said the number of vaccinations includes shots given not only to people who live in Smith County but also many who live in other counties but came to vaccination sites here.
“The rush to get a vaccine quite frankly has slowed,” he said. “If you know people who are on the fence about getting the vaccine, please encourage them to go get it today. There is no reason not to get it today.”
NET Health is keeping up with news concerning COVID-19 variants and the use of the J&J vaccine.
The state health department has halted the use of the J&J vaccine, which has been connected to the formation of blood clocks in some poeple.
Roberts said NET Health was given 1,000 doses of J&J vaccine and had only given out about 100 doses before it stopped doing so.
“There have been no side effects (experienced by those who NET Health gave the vaccine to) that I am aware of,” Roberts said.
NET Health and other vaccine providers will not use the J&J vaccine again until they get further instructions, he said.
Tyler Mayor Don Warren praised the work of NET Health and said there seems to be a sense of optimism that better days concerning COVID-19 are ahead.
“I think everyone is seeing a future of being able to see each others faces again and being around people again,” he said “And everybody is so refreshed and encouraged.”