Nearly half of Galveston County's population vaccinated for COVID-19

GALVESTON, Texas -- Galveston County is nearing notable thresholds in the pursuit of herd immunity, or the status at which a community will have collective protection against the coronavirus.

According to an analysis of data from the Texas Department of State Health Services and the U.S. Census Bureau, about 44% of Galveston County's total population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Corrie Levine, a public health student studying for her doctorate through the University of Texas Medical Branch, has volunteered at both large- and small-scale county vaccination sites during COVID-19. Getting vaccines out to willing vaccine recipients is essential, she said.

"That's really what we need to do right now is be out in the community and offer doses day and night to anyone who wants it," she said.

Community Impact Newspaper collected the cumulative number of fully vaccinated residents over the age of 12 from DSHS and compared it to the population recorded by the Census Bureau's 2019 5-year American Community Survey. As of June 24, 43.73% of county residents are fully vaccinated.

About three in every four county residents are likely to get vaccinated, Galveston County local health authority Philip Keiser estimated in May. Another 25% to 30% of the county's nearly 333,000 residents would need to get vaccinated for the county to reach herd immunity by the standards of national experts.

As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, encouraged people not to focus on specific rates at an April White House press briefing but put the minimum benchmark vaccination rate at 70%.

"We've made estimates that it is somewhere between 70% and 85%, but we don't know that as a fact," Fauci said. "So rather than concentrating on an elusive number, let's get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can."

DSHS data shows nearly 299,500 total vaccinations have been given in the county. The number of vaccinations delivered per week peaked in the spring, nearing 25,000 between April 5 and April 11, per the data.

The county's vaccine hub at Walter Hall Park in League City closed on May 1. Public health officials have since focused their efforts on smaller-scale vaccine events, Keiser told Community Impact Newspaper.

The county is aiming to reach those hesitant or unwilling to get vaccinated in the hopes of reaching a 60% to 70% vaccination rate, which Keiser said would signal a return to pre-pandemic conditions. Approximately 4,000 to 7,000 vaccinations have been administered in the county per week since the closure of the hub, per DSHS data.

While some areas are having a difficult time getting Black residents vaccinated, Keiser said the Galveston area is doing really well with Black vaccination rates.

"We're getting there, but we've still got a lot of work to do," he said.

Clinics are located at the Galveston and League City UTMB campuses as well as at Galveston County Health District. Keiser said the GCHD also plans to keep opening clinics at schools: Both Clear Creek and Friendswood ISDs have already hosted vaccination events for students and community members.

Only people 12 years old and older may receive the federally approved coronavirus vaccines. While residents may hear stories about the negative effects or aspects of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, Keiser emphasized the health district's trust in the efficacy of the shots.

"I'm not asking people to do anything that I haven't done for myself and that I haven't done for my family," he said.

This story comes from our ABC13 partners at Community Impact Newspapers.