VAX FACTS: Here’s the latest information about COVID-19, vaccinations in Texas


FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 file photo, empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Here’s the latest information compiled by the Texas Tribune concerning COVID-19 and vaccinations in Texas. The Texas Tribune uses information from state and local health agencies.

What you should know

On April 6 Gov. Greg Abbott banned state agencies and state-funded organizations from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Everyone age 16 and older is now eligible for the vaccine in Texas, regardless of occupation or health status. But more vulnerable residents are still facing trouble accessing the vaccine, even as businesses are allowed to operate at full capacity and the state no longer requires people to wear face masks.

How we got here

Texas started reopening businesses in May. The first big wave of cases, hospitalizations and deaths followed in June and July. In response, Abbott issued a statewide mandate requiring most Texans to wear masks in public spaces. By September, the numbers had improved and the governor loosened restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses in regions of the state with steady hospitalization levels.

Hospitalizations jumped again during the winter holiday season, culminating in the state’s worst outbreak in January. Average new cases and hospitalizations have decreased since then, and Abbott rescinded the mask mandate in March.

Cases in Texas

As of April 6, the state has reported around 2.4 million confirmed cases in 254 counties and 391,814 probable cases in 224 counties since the pandemic began. Confirmed cases are detected through more accurate molecular tests, while probable cases are detected through rapid-result antigen tests.

These totals may differ from what county and city health departments report. The Tribune is measuring both the number of cases in each county and the rate of cases per 1,000 residents in the last two weeks.

How many Texans have been vaccinated?

As of April 5, 12.8 million doses have been administered — 8.3 million people have received at least one dose and 4.8 million people, or 16.5% of Texas’ population, are fully vaccinated. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose. The state is counting people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as fully vaccinated. They are also included with the people who have received at least one dose.

Texas received its first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. Starting March 29, everyone age 16 and older, regardless of occupation or health status, is eligible for the vaccine.

Many Texans are facing challenges trying to book a vaccine appointment through a process that favors people who have easy access to the internet and transportation. Elderly residents are instead resorting to calling local pharmacies or relying on friends, family or networks of volunteers to find them an appointment.

Herd immunity in Texas

Health experts estimate 75% to 90% of Texans would need to achieve immunity to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity, which would mean vaccinating at least 22 million people, or nearly 100% of adults in the state. Scientists aren’t sure how long immunity lasts for people who were previously infected, making it unclear how much they contribute to herd immunity.

“Whether it achieves herd immunity or not, we’ve got to vaccinate as many people as possible in a critical period of time to save lives,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a virologist at Baylor College of Medicine.

One obstacle is vaccines are not approved for children under 16, who make up about 23% of the population.

State health officials have rolled out vaccine hubs to help administer shots, although many areas don’t have one. Some Texans, particularly in far-flung parts of the state, have resorted to traveling hundreds of miles away from their homes to get immunized.

How many people are in the hospital?

On April 6, there were at least 2,882 hospitalized patients in Texas with confirmed coronavirus infections. This data does not account for people who are hospitalized but have not gotten a positive test, and the Texas Department of State Health Services says some hospitals may be missing from the daily counts.

In November, the state started reporting probable cases detected through rapid-result antigen tests, which are taken by nasal or throat swab like other viral tests, but the results are much faster and less accurate. These cases can also be detected through other means. Before the state reported probable cases separately, probable cases that were accidentally included in cumulative case counts were removed.

How many people have been tested?

As of April 5, Texas has administered 26.2 million tests for the coronavirus since March 2020. We do not know the number of Texans who have gotten a test because some people are tested more than once. The state’s tally also does not include pending tests.

How is this impacting Texans of color?

Some regions of the state with the highest mortality rates are predominantly Hispanic. Hidalgo and Cameron counties, both along the state’s southern border, have seen death tolls that rival larger and more urban parts of the state like Dallas and San Antonio. In El Paso County, thousands of residents have now died of COVID since the pandemic began, placing El Paso far ahead of other major urban counties in deaths per 1,000 residents.

Similarly, case data gathered earlier in the pandemic in various parts of the state shows the disproportionate impact of the virus on Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Over the summer, the areas with the highest positivity rates in Harris County were predominantly Hispanic, according to a UTHealth School of Public Health analysis. In Dallas County, lower-income Black communities have also reported some of the highest positivity rates.

A Texas Tribune analysis showed the distribution of the vaccine is also unequal. As of March, white Texans are being vaccinated at nearly twice the rate of Hispanic Texans and more than six times the rate of Black Texans, according to state data.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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