In an update on COVID-19 in Brazos County to the county’s Commissioners Court, the health district reported nearly 16,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county since Jan. 31, with the 18-to-24 year-old age group accounting for 32.7% of those cases.
The age group of those younger than 18 is also showing an increase in cases with only those 12 years or older eligible for the vaccine, Brazos County Health Department Director Santos Navarrette showed in his presentation.
The Pfizer vaccine, which is currently approved for anyone 12 years and older, is expected to be approved for those younger than 12 at the end of October.
The increasing number of cases in children younger than 18 is alarming, he said, and the health district is recommending masks, social distancing and vaccinations as the best ways to mitigate the risk.
Of the 197,140 people in the county who are eligible for the vaccine, Brazos County has a vaccination rate of 49.5%, compared to the state’s 57% rate. The lowest vaccinated group is the 12-to-15 year-old age group at 26.5%.
The highest vaccinated group was 65 years and older, with a more than 85% vaccination rate.
Navarrette said Pfizer and Moderna booster shots, which are different than the additional dose for immunocompromised individuals, are expected to be available in the county in the next month with the possibility of using a drive-thru vaccine clinic. These booster shots will be produced by the same manufacturers - Pfizer or Moderna - as the first two doses the patient received.
Accounting for the delta variant, Navarrette reported fully vaccinated people have five times the reduced risk of infection from COVID-19, and more than 10 times the reduced risk of hospitalization and death.
Sara Mendez, public health programs manager for the health district, confirmed the Brazos County Health District has received reports of two breakthrough deaths where a fully vaccinated individual died after becoming infected with COVID-19. Due to patient privacy, the health district could not release any other information about the deaths.
The health district’s statement notes of the 98,137 people in the county who are fully vaccinated, as of Monday, the two reported breakthrough deaths are the only ones reported to the county.
The cases, hospitalizations and deaths reported in the county this year started with 3,581 cases, 133 hospitalizations and 45 deaths in January, Navarrette said in the presentation. The numbers hit their lowest point in June when there were 390 cases, 24 hospitalizations and 11 deaths.
He pointed to the emergence of the delta variant in the county in July as a factor in the rise of cases.
Through the first 10 days of September, Navarette said, there were a reported 1,332 cases, 16 hospitalizations and 26 deaths. The number of deaths reported this month is alarming, he said.
The mean age of cases is 30.5 years old, of hospitalizations is 56.8 years old and of deaths is 67 years old.
In Brazos County, Navarrette said, COVID-19 has shown to be more infectious, more severe and more deadly than the flu, pointing to a case fatality rate of 1.1% for COVID-19 and 0.1% for influenza.
He said the health district is using grant funding and a mobile vaccine van to help educate the public and address health inequities in the county that have been amplified during the pandemic, especially among lower socioeconomic communities and people of color.
He recommended the continued use of face masks, social distancing and proper hand hygiene to prevent COVID-19 and encouraged people to get the vaccine if they are eligible.
The county needs to reach an 80% vaccination rate in order to achieve herd immunity, Navarrette said.
Brazos County Judge Duane Peters noted he would like to see the rate of COVID-19 protection, including those who are vaccinated and those like Peters who have had COVID-19 and recovered.
Peters encouraged people to bolster their immune system to help fight the infection, whether they have been vaccinated or not. He credited his immune system with how he was able to recover from the infection.
“What bothers me is that masks, washing your hands, social distancing, those may all be affected to try and keep us from catching COVID, but once you catch it, they don’t do you any good,” he said.
Isaac Butler, constable for Brazos County Precinct 4, spoke during the citizen comments portion of the meeting, calling for all elected officials and leaders in the county, cities and educational institutions to stand together as a community and support the health department and its doctors.
“It’s about saving life,” he said.