Dallas County could reach "herd immunity" for COVID-19 by late June, several weeks earlier than previous projections that suggested late summer or early fall as the earliest date, according to a new analysis by the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation.
The center is an independent, nonprofit healthcare intelligence organization affiliated with Parkland Health and Hospital System. On Tuesday, it released a statement forecasting an earlier date for when enough of the county's population has gained some immunity from infection, either by previous illness or vaccination, to stop the virus from spreading widely.
“PCCI’s analysis, as of Feb. 22, indicates that the county has already reached 44% of the 2.6 million adult residents of Dallas County as either recovered from COVID-19 or in the process of receiving their full COVID-19 vaccine," the statement says.
This number includes 922,460 COVID-19 infections that were either confirmed or presumed infected based on a formula that extrapolates how many people were infected for every case that was confirmed.
The center calculates the county will reach herd immunity when 80% of the population is vaccinated or recovered, which they say is in line with national estimates, including those by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases. Fauci predicted in December the U.S. could likely reach herd immunity by the end of 2021.
The center will continue to update its forecast monthly to track the progress toward that 80% threshold, including the impact of emerging strains, acute spikes in cases and new vaccines, like the one-shot Johnson and Johnson version in the pipeline.
Thomas Roderick, senior director of data and applied sciences at PCCI, cautions that as we race to reach the tipping point for herd immunity, the county must keep pace with immunizations. He emphasizes that vaccines, as opposed to recovered cases, are 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,” he said.
Just this week, the state cut the number of vaccines sent directly to Dallas County Health and Human Services after both Tarrant and Dallas counties partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to open “super sites” at Fair Park and Globe Life Park in Arlington. These new sites will each administer 3,000 shots a day for eight weeks designated specifically for 17 high-risk ZIP codes throughout Tarrant and Dallas counties, based on the CDC’s social vulnerability index.
Because of that increase in shots from FEMA, the state reallocated 9,000 vaccine doses that had been tagged for Dallas County, sending them to areas of the state that haven't received their share of vaccines, according to the state’s expert vaccine panel. These particular 9,000 shots weren't tied to any ZIP codes and would have been available to people who have registered for the vaccine through the county's website.
Parkland Hospital, UT Southwestern and Baylor will still receive their scheduled vaccine shipments this week. Second-shot dose distributions are not affected.
Earlier this week, Dallas City Council member Casey Thomas hosted a call with community organizers to discuss strategies to increase registration in high-risk neighborhoods. By Tuesday evening, Thomas posted a Facebook message with a call for community help. noting that only 18,000 people have registered for 126,000 available shots in the 17 ZIP codes.
"At this rate, we'll run out of people by Day 7," he wrote.
Thomas told the Observer on Tuesday that getting residents in these ZIP codes registered will take a campaign-style effort — grassroots organizing at the local level and knocking on doors.
In a news conference on Tuesday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he’s lobbying Gov. Greg Abbott to get the 9,000 doses back from the state for this week’s allotment for fear it will push back the herd immunity timetable.
According to Dallas County, there have been 277,705 COVID-19 cases in Dallas County, and there's been a 72% decrease in new cases from two weeks ago, according to The New York Times' tracking.
For information or to register for a COVID-19 vaccine, visit the Dallas County Health and Human Service website or call 1-855-IMMUNE-9 (1-855-466-8639) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
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