El Paso has just become the first Texas city to reach herd immunity against COVID-19, authorities said.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, Assistant fire chief and emergency management coordinator Jorge Rodriguez, and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego all said that the city has already vaccinated 75% of the entire population aged 12 and up, achieving herd immunity, Express News reported.
According to experts, at least 70 percent of the population needs to be immune, either by vaccination or natural infection, so the virus will stop spreading.
Despite the milestone achieved by the city, Mayor Leeser is still advocating for the booster shot and the vaccination of children aged five to 11, following an announcement from Pfizer-BioNTech about the trials proving it safe for children.
“It’s important that we advocate for the booster,” Leeser said. “Hopefully, we’re going to see that the vaccine will be available in the very near future for children.”
Nevertheless, the campaign to encourage the rest of the population to get vaccinated continues, so that they will start seeing the benefits.
According to Rodriguez, they are already seeing a decline in hospitalizations. He also said that while “other jurisdictions throughout Texas and throughout the country continue to suffer a great deal through COVID, we are actually doing pretty well. We should be very proud of this effort.”
Meanwhile, El Paso County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza also supported Leeser’s stance on vaccinating children saying, “It will be great if parents and kids can get vaccinated. In the meantime, they need to continue wearing the mask and parents who still need to get the vaccine to need to do so to protect the rest of the family.”
Like the mayor, Ocaranza is hopeful that Pfizer will soon acquire federal approval for children to receive its vaccine.
“I hope that authorization will happen in a month. We were hoping for November, but it would be better if it’s October,” he said.
Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious diseases specialist with UT Health San Antonio and director of the university’s center for medical humanities and ethics, said, “We should celebrate their [El Paso] milestone. It’s a worthy target but unfortunately, the delta variant has pushed the goal post for us. Many people feel that 90 percent or more may be necessary for the community to truly be protected.”
She also said that until the vaccination rates in the state of Texas increase, the risk of more threatening mutations that could weaken the immunity remains.
“That will result in more people getting sick and more people potentially dying,” she said, saying that El Paso should continue to encourage people to get vaccinated.