Fort Worth

In Tarrant County, Fewer People Are Getting Vaccinated Than Initially Hoped

Vaccines are just starting and experts expect numbers to go up

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In the first weekend of vaccines for healthcare workers and first responders in Tarrant County, the goal was to give 1,000 shots per day. But only about 700 people per day showed up.

The goal may have been optimistic, the rollout is just getting underway, and the holiday weekend may be partly to blame, but the lower-than-expected turnout underscores what may be a reluctance by some to get a voluntary vaccine, considered by experts as necessary to end the pandemic.

At a makeshift vaccine clinic set up in a county building in South Fort Worth Monday, Cmdr. Bryan Sudan of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office was among those rolling up his sleeve.

"It's a real easy decision,” he said. “Everybody has been touched by this and if you haven't you will be.”

Sudan said his own brother is in the hospital right now with COVID and three of his co-workers in the sheriff’s office have died of the virus.

But for some, getting a shot is not such an easy decision.

Even in the medical field, some workers just don't want it.

A survey about a month ago of ambulance workers found only about 60 to 65% said they would take the vaccine, said Medstar’s Matt Zavadsky.

Some are concerned it was approved too quickly and may be dangerous or simply not effective, Zavadsky said.

"The good news is that as the vaccine education has gotten better, more of our folks have indicated they want to be vaccinated,” he said. “It's never going to be 100%."

Stephen Love, director of the North Texas Hospital Council, said he believes, based on his talks with hospital executives, that about 70% of healthcare workers plan to get the vaccine.

But he said the percentage is much higher for doctors.

"99% of the physicians want the vaccine,” Love said. “So when you look at the physicians, the trained scientists that accept the medical evidence, they're all taking the vaccine. You will always have some people who are reluctant."

Meanwhile, COVID patients continue rolling into North Texas hospitals at an alarming pace, and more in Tarrant County than anywhere else in the region.

First responders in Fort Worth are handling an average of 117 COVID-19 calls every day now.

Only those patients who are most seriously ill are being taken to the hospital.

"Things are really getting very tight,” Love said. “We are very concerned."

And the models predict things will only get worse.

"And we haven't even seen the Christmas spike yet,” Zavadsky added. “So we are really concerned about the next week or two for sure."

Back at the vaccination clinic, there was hope that if enough people get the vaccine, the solution is in sight.

"You have to trust science and trust the science involved,” Sudan said.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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