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Brazos County health officials stress vaccinations as hospitalizations continue to rise

“We can’t wait, we have to vaccinate our population.”
(Source: WMC)
Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 4:14 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - The Brazos County Health District and representatives from local hospitals came together Monday afternoon to discuss vaccines and students returning to school in a press conference.

Over the past few weeks, Brazos County has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, mirroring the statewide trends. The theme of the press conference was clear, people need to get vaccinated. Dr. Seth Sullivan, the Brazos County Health Authority, said the risks of getting COVID-19 far outweigh the risks of getting a vaccine.

“Vaccination is the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Promoting vaccinations can help schools safely return to in person learning and extracurriculars,” said Sullivan.

He emphasized that since children under the age of 12 can not get vaccinated it’s important that eligible students and those around the children get vaccinated. As students return to school, focusing on mitigation techniques is vital in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. Keeping good hand hygiene, getting vaccinated and wearing respirators - N95 surgical masks - are the top prevention strategies, according to Sullivan.

Representatives from local hospital systems said the overwhelming majority of patients they’re treating for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. At St. Joseph Health, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kia Parsi said out of the 74 COVID-19 patients they’re treating, 95 percent are unvaccinated. The vast majority of the 5 percent of the vaccinated are immunocompromised.

Baylor Scott & White Regional President Jason Jennings said the hospital currently has 50 COVID-19 patients, 93 percent have not been vaccinated. In the beginning of July, there were just 12 COVID-19 patients, he said.

“We’ve also learned that if the majority of the population is not vaccinated, this virus will grow. It will mutate. It will continue to have surge after surge,” said Parsi. “So we can’t wait, we have to vaccinate our population.”

Sullivan said about 80 percent of the elderly population is vaccinated, and the hospital systems said they aren’t the ones needing treatment in the ICU. Now, Parsi said, the hospitals are mainly treating people between their 30s and 50s who are unvaccinated.

“As a clinician it’s very difficult to see a 5-year-old child say goodbye to his 32-year old father who was unvaccinated, knowing that if he was vaccinated he would be alive today,” Parsi said in a plea to the community.

The increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations is also putting pressure on the healthcare workers, with both systems experiencing staffing shortages. Baylor Scott & White has 16 ICU beds, Jennings said, and lately they’ve been using about 20 ICU beds. But, adding these extra beds takes beds away from other care units.

“The last about week and a half we’ve had to reschedule elective surgeries that required an overnight stay,” said Jennings.

Both hospital systems are expecting to receive additional healthcare workers from the state this week.

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