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According to experts, five low-vaccination clusters pose a health risk to the United States.Nation / world

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According to a new analysis from Georgetown University, Washington — five low-vaccination clusters (including two in Texas) could pose a national risk of spreading a new variant of COVID-19.

Areas with a high concentration of unvaccinated residents over the age of 12 include the western Panhandle and eastern Pineywoods areas of Texas, which are of great concern to health professionals.

Georgetown researchers, who have been tracking immunization rates since December, found that there are about 30 clusters in the United States with lower immunization rates than the national average of 47.8%. The five states they identified as the most vulnerable are concentrated in the southeastern part of the country, scattered across eight states bordering Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

Dr. Shueta Bansal, an associate professor of biology in Georgetown, who led the project, said the two Texas clusters together cover about 141 out of 254 counties. It’s an important part of the state, but the cluster doesn’t include many of the most densely populated cities with great success in vaccination.

Texas’s overall immunization rate does not give an accurate picture of the state’s risk levels, Bansal said. At first glance, Texas is in good shape, with 50.4% of the population aged 12 and over, or 12 million, reported to be fully vaccinated, according to data provided by the Texas Department of Health. I will. Also, in Texas, about 14 million people, or 58%, receive at least one coronavirus vaccine.

However, Georgetown’s analysis raises many nasty concerns. According to the Associated Press, one was unvaccinated in almost all COVID-19 deaths in the country.

According to Bansal, unvaccinated clusters pose a greater threat because of the risk of new infections with COVID-19 each time they interact with unvaccinated individuals. New variants can emerge with each new virus outbreak. Already, the highly contagious delta mutant, first discovered in India in December, has become the predominant strain in all newly identified cases of coronavirus in the United States.

In other words, she warned that it was not time to relax our vigilance.

When a new variant that is resistant to the current vaccine surface, “for all of us, including those who have been vaccinated, it means rewinding the watch to 2020,” Bansal said. I will.

She said that certain counties are doing better than others. For example, Dallas County has a vaccination rate of 41.2%, while Harris County has a vaccination rate of 42.5%.

However, in other counties, especially those in one of the clusters, some vaccination rates are still in their early twenties.

“We can conclude that we are happy to have two Americas and two Texas states with a border between vaccinated and unvaccinated counties,” Bansal said. .. “But we are confident that we don’t want to do that. The interaction will continue and if so, we will continue to be at risk.”

According to experts, the impact of unchecked transmissions within the state is nationwide. Dr. Ben Neumann, a professor of virology at Texas A & M University, said the United States would not be in a stable position until each of these low-vaccination areas reached at least the national average.

“These are essentially the easiest places for the virus to grow and thrive,” Neumann said. “And the variants that emerge from these hotspots will be a problem that the rest of the country, and ultimately the world, will have to deal with.”

Public health officials have launched an ambitious campaign to combat the hesitation of vaccines that remain high in Texas. In a poll recently released by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler, one in five unvaccinated Texas people expressed a lot of concern about potential side effects and resisted vaccination appointments. It was shown to be.

Neumann said Georgetown’s work is an important move in the right direction. Public health officials can better target their message and outreach efforts if they have a clear idea of ​​where vaccine-resistant areas are.

“Change must come through these communities, which is a step in identifying how to do that,” Neuman said.

© 2021 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.

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