SAN ANTONIO — COVID-19 may no longer be considered a public health emergency, but those in health care want people to get vaccinated before the shot is less accessible.

“The emergency, in a lot of ways, has ended because of the vaccines,” said Dr. Adelita Cantu, a nurse and professor at UT Health San Antonio.

For more than 40 years, Dr. Adelita Cantu has been a public health nurse, spending a lot of time educating her community.

“I’m talking to people about taking care of themselves,” said Dr. Cantu. “Primary, secondary prevention. So vaccines were a big part of what I communicated.”

Not even 20 years of teaching at UT Health San Antonio could have prepared her for the coronavirus pandemic.

“I mean, the school went on complete shutdown,” Dr. Cantu said.

By the end of 2020, the Health Science Center became a hub for COVID vaccinations. Dr. Cantu jumped at the chance to take the very first shot given in San Antonio.

“Not only does it show that I am doing it, and a lot of people in the community know me and trust me,” Dr. Cantu said. “But it gives me the credence to say, 'Yes get it. I got it. It’s extra protection for you.'"

Fast forward three years, the COVID-19 emergency declaration is coming to an end.

“The pandemic is still here, but it’s not as it was at the very beginning because of the vaccines,” Dr. Cantu said.

So far, 64% of Texans have been fully vaccinated, which equates to about 18.3 million people — a number that UT Health San Antonio Professor Dr. Jason Rosenfeld would like to see grow.

“Around 14-15 times higher risk of getting hospitalized or dying from COVID, versus those people that have been vaccinated,” said Dr. Jason Rosenfeld, the implementing director at Health Confianza.

Health Confianza, the Spanish translation for trust or confidence, aims to promote health literacy to increase vaccinations.

“Concerns that people have about the COVID vaccine are real,” Dr. Rosenfeld said. “What we want to do is help people understand that the vaccines are safe and effective, that the risk for any side effects are small.”

With the public health emergency ending, eventually, at-home tests and vaccines will no longer be free, especially for the uninsured. But vaccines will continue to be free while the federal supplies last

“If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, you should go do it,” Dr. Rosenfeld said. “Now’s a good time.”

A decision Dr. Cantu says she doesn’t regret.

“Oh yes, I would go through that experience again just because of what it did for me,” said Dr. Cantu.