COLORADO SPRINGS — Vaccination rates against COVID-19 have been slowing in El Paso County, leading public health experts to be concerned about the spread of the Delta variant.
With hospitalizations decreasing, and case spread remaining stagnant in recent weeks, those experts aren’t alarmed but are hoping more people get vaccinated to curb the variant’s prevalence.
“There may be a strong correlation between places that have high vaccination rates and low incidence,” said Fadi Youkhana, an epidemiologist with El Paso County Public Health.
El Paso County is one of the lowest-vaccinated in large counties. The county has vaccinated around 53% of eligible people. Only when statistics include vaccines administered by federal agencies (I.e soldiers at Fort Carson), does the rate get close to 60%, as opposed to most Front Range counties above 70%.
“We have more people that are eligible to be infected, meaning they are not vaccinated so there is more room for the variant to run its course,” Youkhana said.
The lagging vaccination rate has led to a drastically higher case incidence in El Paso County.
The Delta variant, many epidemiologists say, is leading to increasing case counts across the country.
“It’s not over. We would love for more people to be vaccinated for it to be entirely in the rearview mirror,” said Stephen Goodwin, the chief data strategist for EPCPH.
Daily vaccinations have decreased since May when, at its peak, there were 38,000 doses being given today. There are still around 5,000 daily doses being given in El Paso County at the start of July, as administering doses moves from large, mass-vaccination sites to smaller offices and clinics.
“So people that would maybe feel more comfortable getting their COVID-19 vaccine with their primary care provider can do that,” said Kristi Durbin, the immunization program manager for EPCPH.
Durbin added they have about 100 offices and clinics on board now as designated vaccination sites but are hoping to bring more on board.
“Education is one of the main tenants of public health, we want people to know there is a safe and effective vaccine that’s available,” Durbin said.
Durbin hopes that FDA approval of the vaccines will encourage more people to get the vaccine.