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Galveston County Planning Public Push For Vaccine Boosters, County Health Authority Says

Galveston County Health Authority Dr. Philip Keiser said he expects a high demand for vaccine boosters in the coming months.

Galveston County is reporting 5,289 active COVID-19 cases, while 55.84% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Galveston County Health District on Monday.

Galveston County Health Authority Dr. Philip Keiser said the county is currently planning a public push to administer vaccine boosters, and also gives his perspective on a recent Carnival cruise ship COVID-19 outbreak.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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A Carnival cruise line ship has reported COVID-19 cases among its vaccinated crew. What do you think people should know about the situation? Is this what you were expecting to see?

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This doesn't surprise us at all. We're seeing a lot of breakthroughs with the delta variant. So, currently in our county I think we've had over 800 people that have been vaccinated who had a breakthrough with delta variant. Carnival in some ways is part of our community — we vaccinated all of their crews — and it's not surprising that they're being affected, as well. Carnival, I think, is taking appropriate steps in that they are quarantining those people that are infected, as well as those that have been in close contact with them. They've also taken the step of restricting shore leave for their crews so that they don't get COVID and accidentally bring it back on.

Do you have any insight about when vaccine boosters might be available for folks in the Galveston area? And similar to the way the initial vaccine rollout went, will there be a public push to administer vaccine boosters?

We're actually planning on it. We're shifting gears. We're getting ready to do a smaller version of a drive-thru. We expect a big demand for boosters. We're already seeing demand for vaccines go up. We have to have a mechanism set up. We're getting lots of calls from people saying, “I'm immunocompromised. I need a booster,” so we'll have a way of going ahead and doing that for them and be able to accommodate them. So, yeah we plan on doing that, but we don't know what that demand will be. And there's a lot more vaccine available than there was six months ago. So, it may be that people can simply call their doctor and get the booster. But we want to make sure that we can provide that, if that's not the case. So, the next couple weeks will tell us whether we really need to continue standing up a special effort to get people boosters. But I suspect it's going to be a lot of demand.

What have you been saying to convince people in your life to get vaccinated?

This is so hard. It depends on the person. Sometimes you want to just kind of shake people and yell at them, but that doesn't work, you know? So you have to be patient and figure out what the real core objection is. You know, people put up things, right? "Oh, it's not authorized by the FDA, or it's not this, or it's not that." And it really depends on the individual. A lot of it really is, I think, what are people's perceived risks? And what we're seeing is that as the numbers of COVID-19 cases go up, people are willing to go ahead and get the vaccine. And what I'm telling people is, just get at least one shot, you know. "I'm worried about the side effects." Okay, get one shot and see how you do, alright? Because we know that even that one shot will confer significant immunity and protection. It's not going to be as good as both shots, but it's better than nothing.

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Jen Rice

Reporter

Jen Rice is the City Hall reporter at Houston Public Media, where she covers topics like Houston City Council and housing. Jen was born and raised in Houston's 100-year floodplain. She graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University and has a master's degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs...

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