San Antonio – There were a lot more chickens on sticks than people getting stuck with vaccines at Fiesta this year, as highly publicized vaccination efforts during the city’s biggest party fell flat.
San Antonio Metropolitan Health District officials say 155 vaccines were administered during 21 pop-up vaccination clinics held at various Fiesta events, an average of 7.38 people per clinic held. The lackluster turnout came as the city is trying to reinvigorate vaccination efforts.
“There weren’t a lot of takers at our Fiesta pop-up events,” said Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger, “but again, with all things COVID, we got to try it and see if it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll pivot; we’ll try something else. I mean, that’s one thing I think we’ve gotten a lot better at over the last 18 months.”
The issue is likely reflective of the larger vaccination trends in the city. The first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in San Antonio six-and-a-half months ago, and now 72.6% of Bexar County residents 12 years and older have since received at least one dose of the vaccine.
With the scramble for a limited supply over, the crowds at the mass vaccination clinics have dropped off, and Bridger acknowledged that pop-up vaccination clinics held around the community to make access to vaccines easier have had “relatively low turnout.”
It’s also possible Fiesta crowds may not have been fertile ground for new vaccinations. It stands to reason attending a crowded event likely means that person is either already vaccinated or just not overly concerned about infection in the first place.
Thomas Wright, a Metro Health senior management coordinator running one such clinic at Fiesta De Los Reyes on June 18, told KSAT at the time that the turnout was lower than they had hoped.
“From what our team members have been saying, there’s a lot of people that have said they already have been vaccinated. So that’s a big part of the ‘no’s’. But there’s still some people that are just -- no, they’d prefer just not to have one right now,” Wright said.
Renewed Vaccination Efforts
Though Bexar County’s partial vaccination rate has surpassed the 70% Independence Day goal President Joe Biden had set for the country, local officials say there’s more to do.
“We have come very far as a community. The cost, the toll has been great. So let’s not stop now,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Wednesday. “The COVID-19 vaccines -- whether it’s Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson -- are all proven to be safe and highly effective in protecting you and your loved ones from this virus, from serious illness, from hospitalization, and, of course, from death. So it can’t be said enough. Do it for you. Do it for your loved ones. Do it for San Antonio.”
The county’s fully-vaccinated rate is 57.7%, in part because about 100,000 people who are due for their second dose haven’t come in to get it yet.
And while COVID-19 case numbers and other key pandemic indicators remain “low” or “mild” in Metro Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, Bridger says roughly 20% of samples submitted for genotype testing are coming back positive for the more transmissible Delta variant.
However, she told reporters she would not single out the danger posed by just that variation of the virus.
“I think what we see in general is the variants are more contagious and can lead to a higher acuity and illness, hospitalization. But the other thing we’re seeing with these variants is so far the vaccines have been very protective,” Bridger said.
Through the pandemic, Bridger said the 20- to 40-year-old age group has had the highest levels of infections. It has, she said, also had the lowest level of vaccinations.
Though the assistant city manager said there “will always be a group that has decided that this is not the politically popular thing to do right now,” she believes there are also some who just haven’t made time yet to get it.
“My understanding is that’s a very busy time in life. You often have career and children and, you know, parents that you’re juggling to try to be there for them,” she said. “And prioritizing the vaccine sometimes doesn’t happen, which is why I want to make it really clear that it’s not about you. Right? It’s about the people around you. That’s why we get vaccinated.”
Bridger told reporters she personally would like to see an 80% full vaccination rate, but it is not an official city goal.
The city is now trying to sweeten the pot for un-vaccinated residents by offering free soccer and basketball tickets through a collaboration with Spurs Sports & Entertainment. A 10-game pack of Spurs tickets will be raffled off at both a July 10 vaccine clinic at the AT&T Center and a July 17 clinic at Toyota Field.
The Toyota Field clinic will also have free tickets to San Antonio FC games.