Rita Obey

Fort Bend County residents are receiving their coronavirus vaccines at rates above most suburban and urban counties in Texas, with some 71 percent of the population age 12 and older having received at least one dose, according to state data.

County Judge KP George took to social media on June 23 to celebrate the county’s efforts, saying Fort Bend was leading Texas in getting vaccinated and returning to normal.

“Let me be clear,” George said. “Fort Bend County’s aggressive COVID vaccination program is an American success story.”

The numbers come as Fort Bend health officials step up their efforts to vaccinate more students and younger residents.

“Our goal is for every eligible person to receive a vaccination to get vaccinated and we will continue to offer vaccinations to all people who may want protection provided from these safe and effective vaccines,” said Rita Obey, a spokesperson for Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, which is overseeing the county’s vaccine program.

As of June 22, about 71 percent of the Fort Bend County population older than 12 had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 60.97 percent were fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services online dashboard. More than 95 percent of the population older than 65 had received at least one dose, and 85.77 percent in that age range were fully vaccinated.

Those numbers led most of the other neighboring counties, according to the dashboard. In Harris County, for instance, just 58 percent of the population older than 12 had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Statewide, about 56.7 percent of the population was vaccinated as of June 22, according to the dashboard.

“Everyone is doing the best they can,” Obey said. “We have all been in the trenches fighting this pandemic together for over a year now, so we don’t think of it as one area performing better than another area. A win for one is a win for all of us.”

George attributed the county’s success to a concentrated effort to provide the vaccine to all residents, and a program to work with community partners in populated areas of the county.

“We are doing very well with our COVID-19 vaccine efforts because the people trust that we have their best interest at heart and, in turn, they are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated,” George said.

This isn’t the success of one person or program, but has taken everyone, George said.

County health officials have partnered with school districts, colleges and faith groups to provide vaccines in many different places, Obey said. Volunteers are also hosting teen clinic hours every Friday and Saturday at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds, Katy Mills Mall and the Missouri City campus of Houston Community College on Texas Parkway.

The county’s efforts to ramp up vaccinations has not gone without controversy, however. Mackie Morris has two children in Fort Bend ISD schools, and said she was concerned about efforts to vaccinate students, citing concern about myocarditis, a viral infection that can inflame the heart.

“I would like to know who made this reckless decision,” Morris wrote in an email to FBISD trustees.

But investigators haven’t yet determined if there is a link between the vaccine and myocarditis, and officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommend getting the vaccine, said Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician and member of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“Of note, they are also considering if the increase in case reports is the result of doctors being more vigilant of this condition given the media attention about myocarditis,” she said.

Ultimately, the vaccine trials included a diverse group of teenagers that proved the vaccine was safe and effective, Bhuyan said.

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