A nurse draws a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine with a syringe.
A nurse draws a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine with a syringe. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Forty percent of Bexar County residents old enough to get the COVID-19 shot are fully vaccinated.

With more than 58% of residents having received at least one dose of the vaccine – and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine back in commission – the county could be two-thirds of the way through vaccinating everyone age 16 and older by this time next month.

Those percentages, however, will soon shrink as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for use among children ages 12-15 this week.

Nationally, about 32% of Americans are fully vaccinated, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and at the state level that number is at nearly 36%, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Although public health experts are cautioning that herd immunity may not be possible even with an aggressive vaccination effort, Israel and Great Britain have effectively extinguished the COVID-19 flame in their respective countries with their world-leading vaccination programs.

As the virus rips through Brazil and India, worry has mounted about the never-ending nature of this global pandemic – that the spread of COVID-19 variants and a stubborn minority of vaccine resisters and COVID deniers will make achieving herd immunity elusive at least for the foreseeable future.

But many of the countries that have managed to vaccinate significant portions of their population have seen coronavirus cases fall to historic lows. In Israel, just 13 new cases were reported on Saturday, the lowest total in 14 months. The United Kingdom saw just over 1,600 new infections and one death as the country hit its lowest coronavirus figures since last summer.

The evolution of the virus is one of the threats, of course, to reaching a post-pandemic normal. Although Texas is seeing an uptick in the number of COVID-19 variants, cases on the whole have stayed relatively low. Bexar County has seen few variant cases up until this point, but genomic sequencing efforts are fairly limited, meaning few laboratories have the ability to detect variants.

Texas vaccinations are slowing as the supply has vastly expanded. State officials are now asking providers to order vaccine doses as needed and any additional doses in the state’s allotment will be stowed at the state’s central pharmacy for later ordering. In this week’s allotment, Bexar County’s mass vaccination providers are receiving fewer than 4,000 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s the lowest allocation we’ve seen for the local vaccination hubs. But it’s due to a shift in strategy, said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas’s health commissioner.

“While there are still many Texans willing to be vaccinated, that demand is shifting from large, mass vaccination sites to smaller, more convenient sites where Texans routinely receive medical care,” Hellerstedt wrote in a Friday letter to vaccine providers.

On Monday, the weekly coronavirus positivity rate jumped by 0.7 percentage points to 2.6% but remains at a level that public health experts consider low.

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez is a columnist at the San Antonio Report. A former reporter and editor at the SA Report, he currently works as a project manager for New York City-based Advance Local.