Wharton County’s vaccination rates continue to lag behind the state average as U.S. regulators give full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The change makes Pfizer the first company to transition from an emergency use status to full FDA approval. However, the vaccine is still under emergency use authorization for children 12-15 years old.
“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said. “As the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standard of safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality the FDA requires from an approved product.”
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, more than 13,000 are hospitalized for the coronavirus.
Texas has reported an average of 77,201 vaccines each day in the last month, and 46 percent of Texans are fully vaccinated. Wharton County has a vaccination rate of 45.08 percent. (see related story)
Regional Medical Director of the Greater Houston Area, Dr. Carlos Plasencia, believes the full FDA authorization should help get more shots in arms to hesitant people and those who don’t think they need the vaccine.
“This is all about a sense of community,” Plasencia said. “Maybe your risk as a healthy person is low, but if you carry the virus you can infect someone else, and they could get seriously sick. This is about doing right by your community and bringing us back to normal.”
The science behind the vaccine is not a new concept and has been studied for decades, Plasencia said. “People think because we had to use an emergency use authorization that we rushed the science, but the truth is we have been studying mRNA for decades,” Plasencia said. “We have invested millions of dollars in this process, and countless scientists and medical professionals have made sure this vaccine is safe for the public.”
More than 357 million COVID-19 vaccines were given in the United States from Dec. 14, 2020, to Aug. 18, 2021. During this time, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System received 6,789 reports of death (0.0019 percent) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have had hundreds of millions of vaccines given to people all around the country,” Plasencia said. “This vaccine rollout has been very transparent, and nothing is being hidden from the public.”
Today, 66 ICU beds are available in the Greater Houston Area that covers 6.6 million people. There have been 38 million total infections reported in the United States, and 630,000 people have died from the virus.
Hospital beds are filling fast, and those on the front line feel the effect of this virus more than most, Plasencia said.
“Right now, nurses, doctors and staff are fighting for the lives of millions of people across the country,” Plasencia said. “They are fighting with limited resources and are spread thin because of the surge in cases.”
Plasencia believes the vaccines can save lives and ultimately lead the nation out of the pandemic, but the medical industry will continue to fight until then.
“We as medical professionals cannot believe we have to go through this again because we thought we won the war before this surge,” Plasencia said. “Please don’t assume they are evil agents of the government. These are real people who have families and live in your community.”
The number of COVID-19 cases in Wharton county has risen to 219 people, with most new infections coming from adults under 60 years old.
“This pandemic isn’t some big-city problem, or some other countries problem,” Palencia said. “This is here, and we can stop it, and all you have to do is get vaccinated. For your communities sake, please get vaccinated.”