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Austin reaches milestone of 70% vaccinated, putting herd immunity in sight

(Jordan Vonderhaar)

It took just slightly longer than local health officials hoped for, but Austin has hit its goal with 70% of its population fully vaccinated.

Outpacing the percentage vaccinated in Texas—61% fully vaccinated—the city is closer to reaching herd immunity, which was once thought to be a 70%, but has since increased to a higher vaccinated population. Of those 12 and older, 80% have received at least one dose in Austin.

Local officials hoped to reach the 70% mark by Labor Day weekend, but vaccinations were conducted at a slower rate as most who were eager to get it, got it as they became widely available. The challenge then turned to vaccinating those that are hesitant for a number of reasons including ideology, health concerns or distrust of the government, which APH has focused outreach efforts toward.

Those efforts have been focused on the Black and Hispanic populations that have fallen behind in getting vaccinated with 34% and 47% fully vaccinated, respectively.

Despite the milestone, it might not mean COVID-19 will be less prevalent. The Delta variant's virality has led health officials to believe the herd immunity threshold should be 80% instead of the originally stated 70%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.

Additionally, a portion of the population—kids under 12—are unable to even get the vaccine, setting back further progress toward herd immunity. But Pfizer announced Monday its vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and will seek FDA approval soon.

Local health officials are encouraging everyone eligible to get the COVID vaccine to help relieve hospitals. While COVID hospitalizations have been declining in recent weeks, ICUs continue to be majorly impacted with unvaccinated individuals, who are staying sick longer, according to Austin Public Health.


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