ANGLETON — COVID-19 cases are steadily increasing and vaccine misinformation is the likely cause, local leaders say.
County officials announced Wednesday that 312 residents had tested positive for COVID-19 — Brazoria County’s highest single-day count since Feb. 21. The report included 33 recoveries along with just 13 cases from two weeks out.
The number of active cases has more than doubled since July 21 and has more than quadrupled since it bottomed out at 408 cases July 1. The active case count now stands at 1,339.
Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta attributed the recent surge with people becoming more comfortable in social settings and the lack of vaccinated residents.
“The demand for vaccines has been very low for the past couple of months, but we definitely have plenty of Moderna at our four county health clinics,” Sebesta said. “There is a ton of misinformation that is out there about the vaccines. There are so many half-truths and fabrications. The last time I heard, it was a trickle who came in.”
Only 43 percent of the county has received their inoculations, Public Information Officer Sharon Trower said in a statement.
Residents aged 18 to 49 represent the most vaccinated block, with 88,254 receiving at least their first shot and 77,051 fully vaccinated, Trower said. Children between 12 and 15 years old were the lowest vaccinated at just 5,810 kids fully vaccinated, Trower said.
County officials have also become “increasingly concerned” with the spike in hospitalizations in the past weeks, Sebesta said.
“We are running around 13 to 14 percent in our region are COVID whereas a month ago it was about 3 percent,” Sebesta said.
Spence’s Pharmacy provides free vaccinations but has seen little traffic in recent months since the AstraZeneca recall, owner David Spence said.
“We have seen a drop in the appointments since the recall,” Spence said. “It hasn’t recovered since then. We have seen more in the past two weeks but it’s nothing compared to what we had in the beginning. I’m afraid that this is all that it’s going to be. If we don’t start a whole lot more, then we will never get to herd immunity.”
Community Health Network’s Penny Pabst relayed a similar message as her clinics’ vaccine appointments have plateaued.
Spence noted 99.5 percent of COVID-related deaths in the state since February were among unvaccinated Texans, according to the Department of State Health Services.
“A lot of people have drank the Kool-Aid and don’t trust the government or medicine,” Spence said. “What’s going to happen is that we are just going to be dealing with all these variants over and over. They are much more contagious, so you are playing Russian roulette. I wish people would believe in the science more than what’s out there on social media.”
A widespread messaging strategy probably wouldn’t do much to change the minds of the vaccine’s biggest doubters, Sebesta said.
“We have the vaccines available and it’s a personal choice that people will make and we are here to provide the vaccines, free of charge, to anyone who wants the vaccine,” Sebesta said. “I think anyone can turn on the news and do their own research. I don’t think putting out any type of message is going to sway anyone. We have the vaccine for anyone who wishes to obtain it.”
Local adolescents represented the largest share of Wednesday’s case count, with 42 resident ages 10 to 19 testing positive, followed by 41 who were in their 30s, the county dashboard states.