A renowned health expert in the field of Tropical Medicine called out Houston for what he aptly described as an alarmingly low turnout of vaccination even as he urged authorities to ramp up efforts to inoculate more local folks.
In an interview on “Houston Matters,” Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, took a swipe at Houston whom he hinted to be as too complacent — if not totally unmindful — over the low vaccination in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and other parts of the south.
According to Dr Hotez, an alarmingly low number of vaccinated people hounds Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana as figures tend to show that less than 20 per cent of adolescents and 40 per cent of young adults have either been vaccinated or received their first of the two doses prescribed by the health experts.
“In most of east Texas, vaccination rates are really low. Harris County is doing better, but there are a lot of vulnerabilities in parts of the state. We will see an uptick in transmissions,” Hotez was quoted as saying during the radio interview, adding that local health authorities in Harris County remain focused despite low COVID cases and hospitalizations in their area.
Interestingly, Hotez sees young people and adolescents as more vulnerable since most senior citizens already had their jabs.
In a related development, the Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann and Texas Children’s Hospital are focusing on the mutated COVID-19 strain referred to as the Delta variant. According to experts, it is 60 per cent more contagious than the original virus version.
To back up their claim, Houston Methodist spokesperson Lisa Merkl cited figures which tend to show more than 40 per cent of new COVID hospital admissions for the month of June are those categorized as Delta cases.
Hotez echoed Merki’s claim and said: “Anecdotally, what we’re seeing is those who are hospitalized are younger than who we’ve seen before. Adolescents are being hospitalized. We’re also worried about new information about long haul COVID happening in more mild cases.”
For his part, Dr Wesley Long, an infectious disease expert at Houston Methodist, also hinted at their own observation which sees a common denominator among those who have been infected with the Delta variant. Long said that most of the Delta variant-infected patients have not been vaccinated.
Hotez went further by making a comparison between Houston and most of the northeast part of the U.S., where vaccination rates are higher. He said that there is no spike in the number of infections in these areas.
He, however, attributed such a development to the fact that young children who are not yet cleared for vaccination have slim chances of being infected because they’re surrounded by elders who have already been fully vaccinated.
To top all his statements, Hotez made a sweeping claim, that more than nine in every 10 COVID-19 patients in the hospitals are those who have yet to be administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“In the northeast, their lives could look like they did pre-pandemic. It’s a different situation down here because so many people are unvaccinated and there’s the higher transmission of the variants,” he said.
“If you’re unvaccinated and haven’t gotten COVID recently, get vaccinated while you still can. Your luck will run out.”
Hotez expressed optimism that vaccines for children younger than 12 could be made available in time for the fall.