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Texas health department kicks off campaign in San Antonio urging young people to get vaccinated

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Hospital personnel prepare to administer a dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. - NAVY MEDICINE
  • Navy Medicine
  • Hospital personnel prepare to administer a dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.
Texas' health department will kick off a statewide campaign Friday in San Antonio that encourages families to get younger members vaccinated as the school year opens amid rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) will launch the campaign with an event Friday at the Walmart Supercenter at 8923 W. Military Drive that will include free frozen treats and games such as arcade-style basketball.

During the pop-up, which will run 3-7 p.m., a 16-foot-tall video wall will display messages from pediatricians and parents discussing the safety of vaccines and urging everyone over 12 to get jabbed. Free vaccines will be available inside Walmart with no appointment or insurance required.

DSHS will run similar pop-up clinics across the state and air public service announcements encouraging young people to get their shots. Although severe cases are more likely among older people, medical experts say younger people need to become vaccinated to halt COVID-19's spread.

“This past year has been hard for everyone, our children included,” Guadalupe Cornejo, lead organizer for San Antonio Community Health Workers Association, said in a written statement. “By getting the vaccine, our kids can get back to their normal routines in the safest way possible.”

Three-quarters of Texans 65 and older are now fully vaccinated, according to DSHS data. However, just 40% of those from 18 to 34 and 26% of those from 12 to 17 have received both doses.

DSHS's campaign kicks off as the highly contagious delta variant now accounts for most new COVID-19 infections in Texas. The variant spreads more easily, pushing hospitalizations statewide to 5,000 for the first time in nearly five months.

Separately, the agency initiated a program that will provide $10 million in grants to community groups working to overcome COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and promote inoculations in their communities.

However, those efforts come as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott doubles down on insisting the state won’t impose any new mandates, such as mask requirements in schools, to combat the delta's variant's spread. This week, the Centers for Disease Control strongly recommended that both vaccinated and unvaccinated students wear masks on school campuses.

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