DSHS launches campaign encouraging Texas youth to get vaccinated

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise in Texas, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is pleading with Texans, especially young Texans to get vaccinated.

According to DSHS, three-quarters of Texans 65 and older are now fully vaccinated, whereas 40 percent of those ages 18 to 34, and just 26 percent of those ages 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated.

Thursday DSHS launched a campaign encouraging Texas youth to get vaccinated. The announcement was made a month before the start of the school year and days after Gov. Greg Abbott promised there will be no mask mandate for school children.

Through the first week of August DSHS will hold 18 pop-up events at Walmart locations across the state to talk with families "about the importance of vaccination for younger Texans as they prepare for next school year and as the Delta variant spreads more widely in Texas."

"We have seen really an increase again and a significant increase in the number of new cases, as well as the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19." Chris Van Deusen of DSHS said of the Delta variant, adding "[The Delta variant] just spread so much more rapidly and so much more easily from person to person."

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the Delta variant now accounts for more than 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States. The vast majority of new infections are occurring in unvaccinated people. Only about 56 percent of Americans have gotten at least one dose. 

This week FOX News reported just three states, Florida, Texas and Missouri, accounted for 40 percent of all cases nationwide. The surge is widely attributed to the state's low vaccination rates.

Houston Methodist Hospital confirmed its first case of the Lambda variant Monday, which is also the first case confirmed in the United States. The variant was first detected in Peru in December 2020. Still, scientists know little about it.

"The World Health Organization has named [Lambda] a variant of interest. Not yet a variant of concern, because there isn't evidence of greater transmissibility or, that it causes more severe disease or doesn't respond as well to vaccines." said Van Deusen.

Dr. Natasha Kathuria works in emergency rooms throughout Central Texas. "This is just showing that the longer we go without herd immunity, the longer we go without sufficient people vaccinated, the more and more variants are going to come out. And eventually, a really, really dangerous shift will happen that may take us back to the very beginning and have us starting all over from scratch," she said.

Kathuria says she is already seeing a shift in Central Texas. "We are about to head into level four precautions for COVID based on the CDC guidelines. And, you know, things are going to start moving backwards. A place that we never thought we would be. Our hospitals are full."

Kathuria says a nationwide nurse shortage is exacerbating the crisis. Many of the patients she is seeing are younger than she is accustomed to, many are 40 to 50 years old.

"This virus is really infecting anyone who is unvaccinated. So we're seeing a lot more younger patients who are unvaccinated, being admitted and being critically ill than we've ever seen through this pandemic." she said.

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