McLennan County crossed the 50,000 first-shot threshold on Friday, meaning 25% of our adult population has received at least partial protection against COVID-19. About 14% of local adults have been fully vaccinated.
On Monday the state will make the vaccine available to all people age 16 and over and the real work begins.
Over the next four weeks the only impediment to vaccination is supply. There are no more groups, no age restrictions — and no reason not to get on a waiting list and be ready to go when your number is called. April is when the lion’s share of shots in arms will take place, here and throughout the state. In baseball parlance, April is the middle stanza of the vaccination game.
Pfizer and Moderna have begun clinical trials for child vaccines, but they won’t be ready for a few months. That leaves 200,781 people in McLennan County eligible to receive the vaccines that are approved right now. And 50,000 of those have at least one shot already.
In a Page 1 story in today’s edition, reporter Rhiannon Saegert explores the concept of herd immunity in McLennan County. She interviewed local health officials and epidemiologists to give our readers a sense of what the term means and whether it can be achieved. We learned the herd immunity threshold for COVID-19 is between 60 and 85 percent, depending on the expert, and that McLennan County won’t approach it until the younger population begins to get vaccinated.
Waco Family Medicine CEO Dr. Jackson Griggs, perhaps the most recognizable local expert of the more than yearlong pandemic, said herd immunity, if achievable at all, would not come until late this year or early 2022.
He also said, “Without people, these germs largely disappear.”
Vaccinations limit the virus’ ability to spread, giving it fewer pathways and eventually paving the way for it to simply die out.
Even during the winter surge of COVID-19 cases, public health experts were already predicting that vaccine supply would outstrip demand by late spring or early summer. That so-called tipping point will get here eventually as the willing step up and get the shots. Public polling in Texas indicates that between 40 and 50 percent of the adult population either won’t take the vaccination or is hesitant to do so. Based on current numbers, that means another 25,000 people in McLennan County will get their first shot before demand wanes. That would leave us at a 50% vaccination rate — not enough to approach herd immunity now, or at any point in future.
Right now there is momentum in the nationwide vaccination effort — more than 135 million shots administered — and the process of signing up, showing up and getting the shot is fairly smooth. We can’t think in terms of herd immunity right now, only volume. More is better. Most is best. All remains the goal.
Think back to the misery of 2020 as the death toll rose and hundreds of thousands were hospitalized. We dreamed of a day when safe, effective vaccines would be available to the masses, spelling an end to this pandemic. That time has arrived.
April is when we turn the tide for real on COVID-19. Beginning Monday, it’s time to get in line.