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Vaccine progress

Good news.

Texas will surpass more than 7 million COVID-19 vaccination doses administered today, top public health officials told the Texas Senate as Gov. Greg Abbott lifted all capacity limits for businesses and ended government-imposed mask mandates in the state.

At the same time, the health officials also offered a strong defense of the previous mask mandates, saying they reduced the chance of asymptomatic people spreading the virus and resulted in a record low year for influenza in Texas.

The speed with which vaccinations are being distributed is one of the keys to Abbott’s new order removing all mask mandates and allowing all businesses to re-open to 100 percent of their occupancy. Still, Texas has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with 15.8 percent of residents having received at least one shot.

“We have come a long way in a very short period of time,” said Imelda Garcia, a top official with the Department of State Health Services, as she testified before a committee in the Texas Senate on Wednesday morning.

Garcia reminded lawmakers that Texas didn’t get its first vaccine shipments until Dec. 14. She lauded vaccine providers around the state for stepping up to administer so many shots in such a small window.

“They have been busting their butts in order to get shots in arms as fast as they physically and possibly can,” Garcia said.

Harris County alone topped 1 million doses on Tuesday.

Because the majority of vaccines in Texas require two doses, the number of people fully vaccinated is just over 2 million statewide.

Yes, there has been a lot of great work done, and everyone involved should be praised and thanked for it. There have been plenty of obstacles to overcome, that’s for sure. Because I’m a numbers nerd, I feel like I have to say something about the totals and percentages cited in this story, because as is they’re making me twitch. Seven million people would represent about 23% of the total state population. Given that the vaccines are only being given to those 16 and up, that makes the denominator in that fraction smaller, and thus would make the percentage higher. The only way this works if that total of “seven million doses administered” counts all shots given, both first and second. That would put the number of people that have had at least one shot at almost five million, which is closer to that 15.8% (it’s now higher on that NYT page, as it updates in real time). I’m just a little annoyed that I had to think it through like this to make sense of it all.

Not so good news.

The Texas Medical Center, in partnership with the city, is now administering 232,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, and experts expect that number to ramp up as more vaccines are shipped to the state.

While vaccination rates are increasing and COVID-19 cases are trending downward again, medical officials said the public shouldn’t get too comfortable. Texas Medical Center leaders said there is currently no strong correlation between vaccination and hospitalization rates.

Experts are anxious that there could be another surge as students go on spring break this month. There’s more virus in Houston, and it’s spreading faster as more infectious variants circulate in the area.

“We’re not seeing the rapid decline we want to see,” Bill McKeon, president of the Texas Medical Center, said at a Wednesday webinar on the state of COVID-19 in Houston.

Part of the reason for this is that it takes time for the vaccine to take full effect – this is true of both the one-shot J&J vaccine and the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – and it is eminently possible to continue to carry the disease after getting your shots. You will be much less likely to get sick, but you can pass it on to others, who may not be so lucky. This is why everyone who cares about keeping people alive and healthy are continuing to urge everyone to wear masks and maintain social distancing. We are approaching a point where those things will not be vital, but we are not there yet.

Good news for some, just news for others.

Texans ages 50 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting March 15, state health officials announced Wednesday.

“We’ve seen a remarkable decrease in the number of hospitalizations and deaths since people 65 and older started becoming fully vaccinated in January,” said Imelda Garcia, the chair of the state’s Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel. “Expanding to ages 50 to 64 will continue the state’s priorities of protecting those at the greatest risk of severe outcomes and preserving the state’s health care system.”

Currently, the state is vaccinating members of priority groups 1A and 1B, which include health care workers, Texans 65 and older, and anyone over age 15 who has a pre-existing condition. Last week, state officials also made educators and child care employees eligible for a dose.

Those 50 and older will be included in priority group 1C. More than 93 percent of Texans who have died from the virus have been at least 50 years old, health officials said in a press release.

One can certainly argue that some other folks should have been next in line, but this is where we are. On the plus side, thanks to President Biden, everyone will be eligible for the shot in a few weeks. Until then, get yourself signed up at your first opportunity. And keep that mask on until someone other than Greg Abbott tells you to take it off. The Trib has more.

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  1. Jason Hochman says:

    I don’t plan to get vaccinated. At least not any time soon. I’ve been pretending that I’m sick and diseased for so long, that I’ve done an excellent job convincing myself that I have had Covid and recovered, multiple times. The power of imagination is very real. It’s called the placebo effect.

    Also, the link to the CDC guidance is here:

    Even though you get the vaccine, they still want you to wear a mask when you are in public, even if you are all alone. They say that you are OK to gather with members of one other household of unvaccinated people. Where have these CDC people been? In my neighborhood, people have been gathering and having parties.

    Finally there are a lot of things on the CDC guidance under the “what we’re still learning” category. In other words they are still figuring this stuff out. But they are completely certain that the vaccines are 100% safe? Even though there is no long term history for them? I’ll wait and see.

  2. Manny says:

    STOP THE LIES, Jason

  3. Bill Daniels says:


    Show what Jason has lied about in the post. Give sources. Use the CDC link Jason himself posted to disprove Jason’s assertions. Tell us all exactly WHAT he has lied about, and be specific. Show us all just how good a lawyer you are. Make an argument to impeach Jason’s comments as lies.

    Thanks in advance.

  4. Jen says:

    My vaccine experience has been about average, from what I gather. First shot of Moderna vaccine at an NRG drive-thru in mid Jan, sore arm for 4 days. Second shot mid Feb., sore arm for 2 days and brief chills about 14 hours after the shot. No big deal and I am now safe from this dread thing, and I still wear my mask (also not a big deal). Don’t get the shot in the arm you sleep on if you are a side sleeper.

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    Manny, I have not lied. How I feel is subjective. Others may feel differently. But that doesn’t make it a lie.

    I linked to the CDC information. Indeed they do have a list of “what we’re still learning.” I give my thoughts about that. Others may have different thoughts about it. No lies there.

  6. Manny says:

    For the two fascists, that would be Bill and Jason, you are asking for me to prove a lie. You, idiots, have it all wrong, you prove that it is a fact. Jason made the following claim;

    “But they are completely certain that the vaccines are 100% safe” That would be in regards to the CDC.

    Either of you two fascists, prove that the CDC is completely certain that the vaccines are 100% safe

  7. Lobo says:

    Re: “100% safe”

    What does that even mean? There can be no such thing with respect to probabilities and risk assessments involving the effects of some human-made substance on millions of people. We have to rely on controlled experiments/clinical trials, employ samples to make inferences, or look for patterns in the entire growing pool of vaccinated population, relative to those not vaccinated. These research designs and methods are not perfect, but what is the alternative? Is there one?

    Safety of a particular product is a probabilistic concept, and we rely on
    probabilities all the time with respect to other risks. We have to do the best we can under various constraints that limit us in our quest for knowledge and understanding of causal processes.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    The CDC bandies around the word safe, and they appear to use it like normal people consider pregnancy….either you’re pregnant, or you aren’t, with no middle ground.