Tarrant County COVID-19 infection, vaccination update

Data visualization shows the COVID case numbrers in Tarrant County over time.

Koen Samuel

Data visualization shows the number of COVID cases in Tarrant County from January 2021 to March 2022.

Koen Samuel, Staff Writer

The jab, the shot, the needle, the vaccine. For just over a year, while thousands of Americans died of a virus that was infecting the country, and the world, millions of Americans waited for the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine.

In the early months of 2021, the Food and Drug Administration approved multiple companies’ vaccines and authorized their use for eligible age groups. Millions of Americans, eager to protect themselves, their families and their communities from the virus, lined up to get it.

Those who have remained hesitant have varying reasons. Some have mistrust of the government because of previous medical experiments that exploited vulnerable communities. Others have been swept away by the misinformation and propaganda from political extremism.

Tarrant County is no different than the rest of the country. While vaccination numbers have no doubt continued to increase, currently only 57% of the county population is fully vaccinated.

Since Jan. 13, 2021, 64% of Tarrant County residents have received at least one dose.

Sabrina Murphy received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine on March 22. Murphy was infected with the virus just after the turn of the new year. She didn’t give  much consideration to getting vaccinated beforehand.

“It wasn’t a political thing or a conspiracy thing,” she said. “I just never really bothered to see what was in it and how it could help me.”

Having turned 18 this past February, and about to start college next fall, Murphy said she made the decision to get vaccinated. She is the only person in her household to get vaccinated.

“I just feel safer and more comfortable having it,” she said. “I’m scheduled to get my second dose in April.”

The vaccine and the pandemic have not solely been a public health issue. It has become a political and a personal issue for some in their decision not to get vaccinated.

Angelina Price, a vaccinated registered nurse in an infant ward, said a lot of the hesitation and fear to get vaccinated is because of non-health reasons.

“It’s a lot of the conspiracy theories and misinformation on social media and other platforms, it’s the reason why certain people don’t want it,” she said. “That’s the truth.”

Choosing not to get it because of the factors cited above is one thing, but not having confidence in it and access to it is another thing.

In Tarrant County, like many other parts of Texas, and the country, the lowest vaccination rates are among the African American and American Indian communities.

Bar graph shows the percentage of fully vaccinated Tarrant County residents by race.
Bar graph shows the number of fully vaccinated Tarrant County residents by race. Data provided by Tarrant County Public Health Department. (Koen Samuel)

African Americans have a history of being medically mistreated and exploited, particularly in the infamous Tuskegee experiment. In 1932, the United States Public Health Service began a study of syphilis among black men. The government researchers did not obtain informed consent from participants, and in 1943, when penicillin was widely being used to successfully treat syphilis, researchers did not offer it to Tuskegee study participants. That historical stain might be at play in keeping this community’s COVID-19 vaccination rates low.

Jeremy Daniels, an African American student at the University of Texas at Arlington, decided to get vaccinated. But he recognizes the hesitancy of those in his community to do the same.

“Due to the consecutive, perhaps consistent, practice of systematic racism and discrimination, Black people are less prone to get vaccinated simply because they’ve been deprived of all political, social and economic entities,” Daniels said. “The U.S. has a long history of negligence when it comes to treating Black and brown people in a civil manner.”

Data visualization shows the number of fully vaccinated Tarrant County residents by ethnicity.
Data visualization shows the number of Tarrant County residents fully vaccinated by ethnicity. Data provided by Tarrant County Public Health Department. (Koen Samuel)

On the Tarrant County official website, Tarrant County Public Health continues to provide daily updates pertaining to deaths. Since the beginning of the pandemic they have recorded 5,880 deaths in Tarrant County due to COVID-19.

Now that the vaccine has been available to most age groups for nearly 14 months, public health experts continue to advocate for vaccinations, and even boosters, to continue to protect those in the community and beyond.

Many businesses in the county have relaxed pandemic guidelines, due to decreasing infection rates and being in a better place. In March, the county saw the second-lowest daily average of positive COVID-19 cases since January of last year.