Cameron County urge vaccinations ahead of holidays

As the public prepares to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays, health officials in Cameron County urge the unvaccinated to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

And with the possibility of a next wave of the coronavirus around mid-December and mid-January, Dr. James Castillo, health authority for Cameron County, said it’s important for everyone to get vaccinated and to get that extra booster shot.

“It looks like COVID is not going away, and if a person thinks they don’t need the vaccine because this is over unfortunately you are wrong,” Castillo said.

The doctor added there will be more “tools in our tool boxes to fight this,” with the next wave of treatment including oral medications.

Castillo made the announcement Monday at a press conference hosted by the Cameron County Judge’s Office in Brownsville.

“It looks like because of the Delta variant and how much more contagious it is that in order for this to go away, we would have to have more than 90% of people actively immune against this virus for it to stop spreading,” Castillo said. “That is just going to take a whole lot of vaccines and boosters and people of all ages to have the vaccine.”

With time, the vaccines eventually start to wear down and this is why health officials are urging the public to get the booster shots, especially if they plan to be with family member over the holidays.

“We all want to get back to a first normal family holiday in a long time and the best way to keep your antibodies level up, your protection up to protect yourself, protect your family and to protect the unvaccinated people in your family,” Castillo said, recommending vaccinations.

“My hope is that if we do have future waves that it looks different than those past waves. That it doesn’t involve overwhelming the hospital, that we have infections but have effective outpatient treatment.”

County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. held the press conference as reminder to the public that the Rio Grande Valley and the rest of the nation are still in a pandemic.

“The virus is still here. It is looking for ways that it can continue to move and mutate. It’s not going to go away. It might be something we are stuck with just like the flu every year, but we are doing better,” Trevino said.

As of Friday, Cameron County had 53,824 cases of COVID-19 and 2,002 deaths. In the last three months, the county has reported 239 coronavirus related deaths, Trevino said.

When COVID-19 hit the county in March 2020, it started with 26 cases; 386 in April; 352 cases in May; 1,635 cases in June; 8,572 cases in July; 10,069 cases in August; 1,836 in September; 1,404 cases in October; 1,871 in November; and 3,521 in December. This year, there were 5,169 cases in January.

“And those three months is why we are here today is to remind everybody as the holidays come up, we saw a spike last year even though the vaccine came available in December,” Trevino said.

The latest figures in Cameron County indicate that 88% of children five years of age and older–including adults–have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine in the county. The number of fully vaccinated people in the county is at 73.96%. The number of adults 65 and older with at least one dose is at 97% and those 65 and older who have been fully vaccinated are 88%.

Manny Vela, president and CEO of Valley Baptist Health System, said hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley are not out of the woods yet as it pertains to staffing shortage. Like the others, Vela said No. 1 tool for the health system is vaccination.

“Please don’t let pride or politics or any other dynamic get in the way of making the right choice,” Vela said.