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White House's Top Vaccine Coordinator Praises San Antonio's Inoculation Efforts Amid Delta Variant Spike

White House Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Bechara Choucair at San Antonio City Hall
Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
White House Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Bechara Choucair at San Antonio City Hall

The White House Vaccine Coordinator said he is impressed by San Antonio’s efforts to get more people vaccinated. Dr. Bechara Choucair visited the Alamo City today as part of a stop in states seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

President Joe Biden selected Choucair to oversee the nation’s vaccination efforts late last year before taking office. After meeting with San Antonio’s health officials and hospital executives Friday, Choucair said he praised the vaccination ground game in Bexar County where approximately 64% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Nationally, vaccinations have increased slightly since the delta spike started last month Choucair said.

“We're averaging now over 800,000 doses per day. Yesterday, we almost saw 900,000 vaccinations. We are particularly seeing increases in states that have higher rates of infections and spread,” he said.

States in the south have lower vaccination rates and lower vaccination trends. In states like Alabama and Georgia the percentage of total people fully vaccinated is about 30-40%. But Couchair said there has been an increase in vaccinations amid the delta spike.

“We're starting to see some uptick in Georgia, some uptick in Texas. I think people are realizing that the delta variant is serious, the pandemic isn't over. And that's the silver lining here,” he said.

In Texas, about 44% of the population — including children too young to receive the vaccine — are fully vaccinated.

Couchair highlighted San Antonio Metro Health’s homebound vaccination program, vaccination information campaigns like Paletas in the Park, and faith based vacation efforts during a press conference with San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Nirenberg said local hospitals had begun pausing elective surgeries due to the amount of COVID-19 patients. On Friday, Bexar County crossed more than 1,000 current patients in the hospital.

“Every single one of us has a responsibility,” Nirenberg said. “Elective surgeries and other routine medical procedures are being put on hold now because COVID patients are once again filling up our hospitals. It is frustrating for all of us, for you too, that we're back in this situation. But there is a major difference between this surge and the previous surges. This time we have the tools to fight back, primarily vaccinations.”

City and county leaders have repeatedly urged the importance of vaccinations. Nirenberg said despite the continual pleas he and Wolff are not done hammering in the message.

“We're just getting started. If you think we're done, think twice. We're going to talk to everybody until they do the right thing and get vaccinated, because it's not just about their health. It's really not about you. It's about the people around you,” Nirenberg said. “It's about those 12-year-olds, those 5-year-olds, those kids that are going to go back to pre-K. We need to make sure that the people around them care enough about the others in this community to get vaccinated.”

This month, Bexar County and University Health are expected to start a $1 million grant funded initiative that includes hiring 13 people who will go door to door and encourage people to get vaccinated in Bexar, Atascosa, Guadalupe and Wilson counties.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules