Metro Health ramps up efforts to close vaccination gaps in Bexar County

Pop-up clinics in neediest areas, possibility of incentives to sway the unvaccinated

City of San Antonio ramps up efforts to get more residents vaccinated
City of San Antonio ramps up efforts to get more residents vaccinated

SAN ANTONIO – Vaccination numbers continue to grow in Bexar County, but not everyone is ready, or possibly able, to get their first dose yet.

While Mayor Ron Nirenberg reported Thursday that 63.5% of the county had received at least one dose so far, a recent vaccination report by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District shows the vaccination rates vary across the county. The breakdown by ZIP code in the May 10 report shows that only between 19.2% and 43.4% of people across a good swatch of the West and Southwest sides have received at least one dose.

A breakdown of vaccination rates by zip code shows that certain areas of the county lag behind others. However, the data does not include any doses given by the VA or D.O.D.

The ZIP code-specific report, though, includes four fewer days’ worth of vaccination data than what Nirenberg delivered. Doses administered to military members or veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs or Department of Defense also aren’t included in the granular-level breakdown.

Still, it shows a pattern of lagging vaccination rates across parts of the city, which the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District is considering when setting up pop-up vaccination clinics. The vaccination rates, the location of disadvantaged neighborhoods, and the areas that were worst hit by the pandemic are all factors for where to hold the clinics.

map on the city’s website shows when and where Metro Health or other providers like UT Health Science Center-San Antonio are holding the clinics.

The reasons people have for remaining unvaccinated vary person-to-person, and the clinics -- often held at churches or community organizations -- are meant to help fight accessibility issues.

But that only helps people who want to come to get vaccinated. There are still many others either dead-set against getting vaccinated or at least somewhat hesitant.

While other parts of the county may have turned to headline-grabbing incentives to spur people to get vaccinated -- like Ohio’s $1 million lottery -- free “paletas” were the only thing to sweeten the pot at a pop-up clinic at St. Henry’s Catholic Church on Friday.

Metro Health Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo said she had heard another group in town was planning something around a free beer, though she didn’t have specifics. Woo said Metro Health was open to discussing incentives beyond drinks and treats, though.

“I think there need to be careful discussions around ethics, around what’s feasible. But definitely, other kinds of incentives are on the table,” Woo said.

Woo expects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance around masks may also help sway some people who hesitant about the vaccine.

Metro Health has also been speaking with influential community members, she said, like religious and community leaders, who may have more sway with people not sure if they want to get vaccinated.

“We’re not always the right messengers,” Woo said.

Though ultimately, it will be everyone’s decision to make on their own.

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