Federal officials and health experts stress vaccine importance, vaccine equity amid rise in breakthrough COVID-19 cases

El Paso News

FILE – In this April 26, 2021 file photo, a nursing student administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at UNLV, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Federal data suggests the Biden Administration’s efforts to achieve vaccine equity across the country are yielding mixed results.

The data reveal comes as the City of El Paso’s Public Health Department reports more than 150 new breakthrough cases of COVID-19, as well as five additional infected-related deaths. 

KTSM 9 News spoke one-on-one with federal health officials and local experts about what the numbers mean for the people of El Paso.

Recently-released FEMA data reports that of the 4.6 million COVID-19 doses administered across the U.S. where people identified their race, only 25 percent were given to Hispanics while about 15 percent were given to Black people. 

The federal government established vaccination centers across the country to complement state-run efforts to vaccinate residents in an effort to increase access for socially vulnerable populations. 

“Equity continues to be at the center of our campaign,” Dr. Bechara Choucair, White House Vaccinations Coordinator, tells KTSM. “Literally from day one, and we continue to do everything we can to ensure that access to the vaccine is happening equitably across the country. We continue to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to build vaccine confidence in communities across the country.”

The rise in breakthrough cases are concerning health officials at all levels of government, while disinformation campaigns persist.

The White House says its continuing to work to coordinate vaccination efforts across the country — and in regions like El Paso that are seeing an increase in cases despite high vaccination rates — while also addressing concerns of the vaccine hesitant. 

“The fact remains that we have answers to all those questions that are based on facts, based on science, and we want to make sure that people are getting facts,” says Choucair. “And I have no doubt that when people get facts to their questions, when they get accurate answers to their questions, they will be more inclined to be vaccinated,” he adds.

Health experts in El Paso stress that being vaccinated remains one of the most effective ways to protect yourself, your family, and the community from contraction and transmission of COVID-19 and its multitude of variants. 

“The fact that we are a well-vaccinated city protects those who are vaccinated,” Dr. Ogechika Alozie, Infectious Disease Expert, tells KTSM. “Again, this is the most dangerous time not to be vaccinated. There are so many people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s in our hospitals and this is really a choice that people are making.”

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