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COVID-19 vaccinations increasing rapidly in Texas as hospitalizations spike

More events continue to promote the vaccines and areas with the lowest vaccination rates are seeing the biggest jumps in people getting first doses.

DALLAS — In case anyone had missed the message, a 16-foot tall video board and a panel of speakers greeted shoppers at Walmart in southern Dallas Sunday.

“This vaccine is safe,” a pediatrician said in a pre-recorded video message on the board.

From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, the board played loops of messages in English and Spanish as a team of people with the Texas Department of State Health Services provided information at a tent set up next to the front door.

“Most often people think it’s a concert,” said Robert Santiago with the state health department. “We’re out here doing outreach, talking about the COVID vaccine.”

It’s the 18th site and 15th city they’ve traveled to in Texas to share information and promote the vaccine.

“We get other people who don’t know the first thing,” Santiago said. “That you don’t need an appointment and that it’s free.”

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Kassondra Vines walked up wanting to know if her grandkids could be vaccinated, but ranging from ages 3 to 10, they just miss the 12-year-old cut-off for eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine.

“I’m kind of sad because I want to feel safe with them going back into the schools,” Vine said.

Now eight months after vaccines became available in the U.S., just 59% of those eligible are fully vaccinated.

“Some people are scared,” Vines said. “They’re scared of just not knowing. I think scared is not knowing.”

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Sunday in an interview with ABC News, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins called the 50%-mark a failing of Americans.

“It’s time. In fact, it’s past time but it’s not too late,” Collins said. “We would not be in the place where we are with this Delta surge if we’d been more effective with getting everybody to take advantage.”

There is good news, though. The number of people in Texas getting their first COVID vaccine dose has more than doubled from where it was a month ago, according to data from the state health department.

The biggest increases have been in surrounding Dallas-Fort Worth areas like Johnson, Parker and Rockwall counties and other areas that have remained hesitant.

“In this side of town, there’s a lot of people that don’t know,” Vines said. “If they would get out and spread the information a little more, maybe more people would understand.”

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The popup provided a basketball hoop, gift cards and popsicles to people who stopped by if signs and a sales pitch for a “free, life-saving vaccine” weren’t enough.

“We talk to the pharmacist,” Santiago said. “We asked them if they’re busier than normal and they absolutely say, ‘Yes.'"

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are surging in Texas, and, in case anyone missed the message, there’s a cure to stop it.

“Roll up your sleeve,” Collins said. “Become part of the winning team.”