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Half Of All Rio Grande Valley Residents May Be Vaccinated By June 5

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The rush for COVID-19 vaccine doses is now over in the Rio Grande Valley, as in many other regions across Texas. But the rate at which community members receive vaccines each week continued to hold steady. Over the past 14 days, the state's four southernmost counties that make up the region reported an average daily full vaccination rate of 0.6%.

If the current rate of vaccine distribution remains uninterrupted, the Rio Grande Valley will reach a milestone of 50% of people fully vaccinated by June 5.

COVID-19 active cases in Hidalgo County over the last 30 days
Pablo De La Rosa
Texas Public Radio
COVID-19 immunization data for The Rio Grande Valley, updated on May 13, 2021 from the Texas Public Radio RGV COVID Live Blog.

That daily rate may increase after the federal government issued guidance this week to begin administering doses of the recently FDA approved Pfizer vaccine to 12 to 15 year old adolescents. Getting the vaccine has also become more convenient because multiple businesses and organizations across the country and in South Texas offer doses daily without pre-registration.

Imelda Garcia, associate commissioner of laboratory and infectious disease services at the Texas Department of State Health Services, or DSHS, said on Thursday that Texas was also on the verge of a major milestone: 20 million vaccines distributed through both state and federal agencies.

Currently, 39.8% of the Texas population is fully vaccinated. In the Rio Grande Valley, that figure is 37.7%.

Garcia also compared the Valley to other parts of Texas. More than 22% of the population of Bowie County, in East Texas, is vaccinated. Newton County, on the Texas-Louisiana border, has a vaccination rate of 18%.

| Related: For more daily COVID data updates on the Rio Grande Valley, visit TPR's RGV COVID Live Blog. |

“What we see is that the Hispanic population is very close to that of the proportion of the population of the State of Texas, and the white population as well,” she explained. “The northeast corridor of Texas and along the Louisiana border are the geographic areas that have been slower to increase the vaccine uptake.”

Garcia also noted while vaccination rates are important, the agency is focusing on a broader range of metrics.

“We also pay attention to hospitalizations,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a delayed indicator but it does tell you how severe the impact on a community is.”

Garcia added that hospitalizations across the state have plateaued since Easter. Not every jurisdiction in the Rio Grande Valley reports daily on hospitalizations, but data from Hidalgo County over the past 14 days indicated that rates of hospitalized COVID infections on average dropped by two patients every day.

Latest Covid-19 Infection Data For Hidalgo County, Updated December 30, 2021
Pablo De La Rosa
Latest Covid-19 infection data for Hidalgo County, updates May 13, 2021 from the Texas Public Radio RGV COVID Live Blog.

On May 4, the Biden administration announced a goal for 70% of the U.S. adult population to have one vaccine shot by July 4. At the current rate, the Rio Grande Valley is set to miss that mark by three days.

Garcia said that while expectations for Texas were positive, targets for vaccination rates were tentative.

“What I can definitely say is that we’re going to try hard to get as close to that as possible,” she said. “We do know that vaccines have slowed, but we have been administering over 1 million doses per week for the past several weeks. We are pushing our providers hard, and we know that collectively everybody wants to hit that target.”

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Pablo De La Rosa is a freelance journalist reporting statewide with Texas Public Radio and nationally with NPR from the Texas-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, from where he originates. He’s the host of the daily Spanish-language newscast TPR Noticias Al Día.