Dallas County is expected to achieve “herd immunity” this June, according to a new report by the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation. PCCI has been tracking and mapping the disease in Dallas since it arrived last March. It made the prediction that we will reach this critical point in the fight against the pandemic based on current vaccination and infection rates.
The organization’s models estimate that 80 percent of county residents will have received their second dose or have some sort of immunity from the disease by this summer. The forecast is based on local data, models, and trends. Herd immunity occurs when a large enough percentage of a population is immune. The disease is unable to spread within the group, choking it of resources until its risk decreases significantly.
“We will get to herd immunity either through continued infection, which is a slow route that will continue to harm the community and economy, or vaccinations,” said Steve Miff, the president and CEO of PCCI, in a release. “This underscores the importance of Dallas County residents registering for and receiving the COVID-19 vaccinations as quickly as possible and continuing to stay vigilant and safe from being infected.”
And, of course, it is contingent on vaccine supply. Last week’s winter storm delayed hundreds of thousands of doses to the state, but 1.5 million doses are still expected to arrive in Texas this week. In the seven days before the storm, 900,000 Texans were vaccinated, but only around 150,000 doses were given the week of the storm, the Texas Tribune reports. In Dallas, the county’s allotment of doses was slashed by 20,000 when the federal government announced it would be launching a targeted effort to vaccinate some of the most vulnerable in 17 Dallas ZIP codes with 20,000 doses of its own.
Continuing the quick rate of vaccinations will be essential in preventing the spread of new COVID-19 variants, some of which are more contagious and resistant to the vaccine. The more the disease is allowed to spread, the more likely it will continue to mutate and be more challenging to stop through vaccinations.
As of Feb. 22, 44 percent of the 2.6 million adults in Dallas are either recovered from COVID-19 or have received their vaccine. PCCI says 922,460 residents have been confirmed to be infected and healed, and 270,642 people have received at least one vaccination shot. The forecast was developed in a partnership with community health leaders at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas County Health & Human Services, and Parkland.
Several entities are pushing to reach vulnerable and hesitant communities, as it will take buy-in from much of the region to reach these levels. “Vaccines are also the best line of defense against COVID-19 variants, so it is critical that vaccines are made available to as many people as possible and county residents make it a priority to get vaccinated,” said Thomas Roderick, senior director of data and applied sciences at PCCI.
PCCI has been mapping the vulnerability of different areas of Dallas County throughout the pandemic and recently launched an app that can give residents a personal risk score to catching the disease based on where they live and their neighborhood’s infection rates. Learn more about the app here.