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Bell County health officials concerned heading into holidays

Posted at 2:57 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 16:05:32-05

Families are planning to get together for the holidays and many of them are doing so with COVID safety in mind and that includes getting vaccinated.

Gathering for the holidays is a tradition in most families, but medical professionals are worried that vaccination rates aren’t where they should be to make those gatherings safe.

According to the Bell County Health District ... just over 42 percent of eligible people have been fully vaccinated in Bell County.

That has medical professionals a little worried as families begin gathering for the holidays.

"We have had an increase in deaths in the United States by 4.6 percent and the hospitalization rate is up by 20 percent since Thanksgiving and with what we saw last year, after Christmas, so many people got sick,” said Amy Mersiovsky, director of the Department of Nursing, Texas A&M Central Texas.

Children ages 5 to 11 have been eligible for a vaccine for a while now but just like the rates in adults, local health leaders say the rates in children getting vaccinated are not where they should be.

"We’re very, very low, in our 5 to 11 range," said Mersiovsky. "That was the last group that just started. We are still needing our 5-year-olds to out 40-year-old people to get vaccinated.”

That’s why Killeen ISD is doing what it can to make getting the vaccine as easy as possible by providing free vaccination sites for the public.

"This is happening at the former Nolan Middle School," said Taina Maya, chief communications and marketing officer. "So, this week it will actually be on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Then next week while the district is closed, for the following 2 weeks, we’ll continue to do this on Monday and Tuesday.”

The site is not just for Killeen ISD families and staff.

"If you have family coming into town, they are welcome as well, to come to the Former Nolan Middle School to receive their vaccines,” said Maya.

Even with people taking advantage of free vaccination sites like KISD’s, medical professionals are still urging caution for holiday gatherings.

"We've got to be careful. We’ve got to start social distancing again, masking, washing our hands, and making sure that everyone is vaccinated to make sure that everyone is safe,” said Mersiovsky.

Since Killeen ISD opened the vaccination site in early November, 800 kids ages 5 to 11 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 377 have received their second dose.