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White House COVID-19 advisor: 'Texans right now have to change their behavior. We have to stop the spread within Texas'

Dr. Birx spoke with WFAA Tuesday in a wide ranging interview covering everything from the vaccination rollout to her thoughts on the state of the virus in Texas.

White House Coronavirus Advisor Dr. Deborah Birx spoke with WFAA on Tuesday about the record breaking hospitalization numbers in North Texas and the plans for the vaccine moving forward.

“Texans right now have to change their behavior. We have to stop the spread within Texas. You can see what’s happening in Dallas. You can see what’s happening across Texas,” Dr. Birx said. “I know it’s tough in the holiday season, we are asking people to make sacrifices, we are asking you to make sacrifices until we can get your beloved grandparents, aunts, and parents vaccinated.”

For the first time on Monday, Dallas and Tarrant counties each reported more than 1,000 patients hospitalized with coronavirus. Hospitalization numbers for Region "E," which includes most of North Texas, continue to set records.

Birx also addressed criticism by some members of the public who are frustrated that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other political leaders were already able to get the vaccine. 

“I think they’re trying to make it very clear to the American people, and that’s why they’ve gone on TV to get it, and they haven’t gotten it secretly, they’ve gotten it in public so that they can show that that needle goes in your arm, and nothing, they’re fine,” Dr. Birx said. “I think that will really help reduce vaccine hesitancy.”

The first wave of the vaccine is intended for health care workers and those in living or working in long-term care facilities.

There are still questions about when the public will know if the vaccine prevents infection and asymptomatic spread.

“We have to make the assumption right now that the vaccine is going to protect against disease and until we know it prevents against infection, we’re going to have to continue to do those things that we know between masks and physical distancing, avoiding gatherings,” Dr. Birx said. 

Birx said until data makes it clear the vaccine also prevents potential spread of the disease, people will need to continue those practices to protect others even after they are vaccinated.

Brix said once the replication rate -- the ability of the virus to transmit -- comes down, experts will know the vaccine is working to protect the population. 

“Now as we get more and more people immunized and we see that R1, that replication rate, the ability of that virus to transmit, when we see that coming down, due to vaccination, not just decreased hospitalizations and decreased fatalities, but actually decreased cases, we’ll be able to really say that these vaccines, as we get closer to herd immunity, are actually protecting the population,” Dr. Birx added.

As Americans everywhere wait for their opportunity to get the vaccine, Dr. Birx is pleading for the public’s help to stop the spread.

“We know what to do, but right now with the way the cases look in Texas, we need to stop it now,”

Watch the full interview

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