TEXAS — The number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in Texas continues to go up, but the rate of vaccination is slowing significantly.
Now some cities around the state are offering incentives to help encourage people who haven’t already gotten their shots.
“We’ve gotten to that point where the people who are really eager to get vaccinated have gotten it," said Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
As of Monday, there are more than 11 million Texans fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s almost half of the population that’s eligible to get vaccinated, and over 39% of the total population.
“It’s really allowed us to open back up, you know, return to some semblance of normalcy - we just want to keep things headed in that direction," said Van Deusen.
But the rate of vaccination is slowing, with Texas still far from herd immunity.
“Most experts think somewhere between 70 to 80%, then there are enough people surrounding those that are unvaccinated that that puts everybody else at less risk and the virus doesn't have as much of an opportunity to be transmitted from person to person," said Dr. Manish Naik, chief medical officer at the Austin Regional Clinic.
Now cities across the country are implementing vaccine incentive programs to encourage those who aren’t yet vaccinated to get their shots.
Last week, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson launched a raffle where people who are vaccinated from June 1 to July 23 can win gift cards, flight tickets and signed sports memorabilia. In San Antonio, Metro Health offered free Six Flags tickets.
Medical experts say reaching herd immunity is critical for protecting people who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons and for reducing the chance of the virus becoming more deadly or infectious.
“The more transmission that occurs, and the more replication of the virus that occurs, the more likely it is to mutate," said Dr. Naik.
In some Texas counties, the pandemic left deep scars. Presidio County at one point had one of the highest infection rates per capita in the country. Now more than 80% of the eligible population is vaccinated.
“It finally hit home when, when many people that were key members of the society, came down with COVID. Especially for Presidio, we had a lot of really pillars of the community that died," said Dr. John Paul Schwartz, osteopathic physician and Presidio County health authority.
Even as the positivity rates across the state remain low, experts say the risk is not gone.
“The virus is still out there. So, there could be clusters of individuals that are unvaccinated, and it could create another, you know, spike or wave of infection," said Dr. Naik.