EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego held a joint briefing Monday afternoon to acknowledge that the community had reached a major milestone in its efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic.
Emergency Management Coordinator Jorge Rodriguez told Commissioners Court earlier in the day that El Paso County had reached herd immunity because 75% of residents are now fully-vaccinated.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, herd immunity means that enough people have immunity either from the vaccination or from a past infection, meaning it makes it harder for the virus to jump from person to person, helping protect those who are still vulnerable to catch it.
“We have reached the 75.15% fully vaccinated so that is, in terms of herd immunity, that’s something that we’ve been working on as a community,” said Rodriguez. "We want to thank everyone; you know to include the Commissioners Court, City Council, our partners with UMC, the Health Department, the Fire Department, our great Office of Emergency Management, and everyone else that has made this possible."
The news comes as the leaders said new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the decline in the area.
“We are, absolutely, the first city in Texas to receive this level of vaccines within the community and as you all recall we were way ahead of the federal goals that they were trying to reach for July 4 so we were way ahead of those, six-weeks prior, so we are very happy to communicate that to the court, but also to the rest of the community," Rodriguez said.
ABC-7 reached out to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) about herd immunity, and what the standard is for reaching it.
DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said there isn’t enough scientific data yet to really determine the level of vaccination necessary for herd immunity.
“The estimates have been 70-85%, but with the Delta variant being so contagious, the threshold might be even higher than that,” Van Deusen said by e-mail Monday.
El Paso City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza also briefed commissioners earlier Monday. He attributed the decline in Covid-19 cases to preventative measures happening within the community, including wearing masks in combination with hand washing and people staying home when sick.