As COVID-19 cases decrease and risk levels decline in Bexar County, many who are eligible for booster vaccines have yet to receive one.
As of Friday, the county’s risk was classified as low as cases continue to trend downward and positivity rates drop. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also classified Bexar County’s risk as low.
Because of the low risk level, the CDC has determined mask wearing as optional and recommends staying up to date with vaccines.
Texas Health and Human Services reports 6,358,473 residents have received a booster dose, while 17,315,620 people are fully vaccinated, and 20,483,108 have had one dose.
Locally, the Metropolitan Health District’s COVID-19 weekly vaccination report says that only 34.3% of the population aged 12 years and over have received a booster dose in Bexar County.
Dr. Bryan Alsip, chief medical officer at University Health, said booster shots are still essential, and that about 80% of patients hospitalized for the virus are unvaccinated.
“The cases being reduced is a significant factor in people’s perspective relative to whether they need [a booster] and that’s one of the reasons I think that we’ve seen fewer and fewer people seeking out boosters,” Alsip said.
Others feel they don’t need it because they’re not at high risk of contracting the virus, he added.
That decrease of interest in vaccines is what recently sparked the closures of one of San Antonio’s first and largest vaccination sites and a testing facility this month.
Alsip said a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine validated early data around the importance of having a booster dose.
“This booster dose could offer really additional protection against the future variants. We don’t know yet know how much until that happens, or if it happens. That’s probably another reason to consider getting a booster, if you haven’t already,” said Alsip.
Attempts to encourage individuals to get vaccinated have continued for months. In September 2021, a $1 million purchase of 10,000 H-E-B gift cards worth $100 each was approved by the City Council as a financial incentive for those receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one J&J vaccine at Metro Health vaccine events.
Metro Health has given out 9,026 gift cards since the giveaway began and 974 remain to be dispersed.
“The number of individuals seeking a vaccine has slowed and the interest (for those who want a vaccine) remains for the gift card,” said Cleo Garcia, public information officer for Metro Health. “As you can see by the recent vaccination data, most people who have wanted to get a vaccine, have received it. We are encouraging individuals to get their booster shot.”