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Texas Standard

Killeen Mayor Urges Vaccinations To ‘Save The Lives Of Your Neighbor’

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Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
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A COVID-19 vaccine recipient in Austin in March.

The COVID-19 vaccination rate in Bell County, home to Killeen and Fort Hood, is about 32% – significantly lower than some nearby counties.

From Texas Standard:

COVID-19 cases are gradually declining in Texas, but hospitals are still seeing a disproportionate number of COVID-19 patients. That's true in Bell County in Central Texas where two local mayors urged vaccination in a public letter posted on Facebook.

Jose Segarra of Killeen is one of those mayors. He told Texas Standard that many of the COVID-19 hospitalizations could have been prevented by the vaccine. In the letter, Segarra pleaded with residents to get vaccinated, urging them to do so for the health of their neighbors in a town full of military personnel.

"We're in a military community and a lot of the soldiers, they fight for their freedom and they give their lives so that we can have that freedom. And I kind of look at it the same way, I say, 'You know, if you vaccinated, you're doing something to save the lives of your neighbor,'" he said.

In Bell County, about 32% of residents have been fully vaccinated. It's a significantly lower rate than neighboring Williamson County. And about 93% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, Segarra says. Plus, with a disproportionate number of COVID-19 patients at local hospitals, it's difficult for them to treat patients with other health emergencies.

"When our hospitals are overrun ... we don't have enough room for other emergencies, [like] if somebody has a heart attack, if somebody has a traffic accident," he said.

Out of the approximately 156,000 people in Killeen, Segarra says thousands still need to get vaccinated. He says some of the hesitancy comes from fears that the vaccines hadn't been properly tested, potential side effects, perceptions that vaccination efforts were an intrusion on individual freedoms and political beliefs. But as more people get vaccinated, he says those fears are diminishing.

"As we continue to get more and more people vaccinated, you know, it kind of dispels all those rumors and all the things that people are saying," he said. "For the most part, you don't hear anything negative about getting vaccinated. There's always an exception, you know, it's just like anything else. But it is just so minute, so small, compared to the thousands and thousands of lives that can be saved."

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