‘We squandered our opportunity to get rid of this’: Rio Grande Valley not yet at herd immunity levels

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HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Dallas County has claimed it has achieved herd immunity despite only having half the population 12 and up fully vaccinated.

According to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Dallas County has fewer people fully vaccinated than in the Rio Grande Valley.

The total number of people fully vaccinated in the Rio Grande Valley has plateaued around 65% according to the data from DSHS. That is around 6% higher than the state average.

But even with the high percentage of the population fully vaccinated, the Rio Grande Valley has not been spared by the increase in COVID-19 cases sweeping the state.

COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations had been going down for months but as new vaccinations are slowing, cases went back up again after the July 4th holiday.

“We squandered our opportunity to get rid of this. We squandered it and so now we’re stuck,” said Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County Health Authority.

Doctors had hoped that the number of new COVID-19 vaccinations would continue to increase swiftly. Instead, we seem to have hit a wall at around 65% fully vaccinated.

“I mean you can play the numbers any way that you want to. I think the reality behind it is, I don’t believe that Dallas is at herd immunity, and I certainly don’t think that we are either,” said Melendez.

Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo said he thinks it is still too soon to make the same call that Dallas health officials did.

“Nobody knows what exact percentage we need to get to have herd immunity or collective immunity from COVID,” said Castillo.

Health experts have given a range of 70% to 90% being fully vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, but variations to COVID have changed that.

“If the virus becomes more contagious that number goes up. And so, the Delta variant is a good example of that, which is now over 58% of cases in Texas,” said Castillo.

The herd immunity point may be unknown, but doctors all agree one thing is certain.

“If you look at the severity of the hospitalizations,” said Castillo, “the people who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to be in the ICU, never mind being intubated or dying.”

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