FILE - In this March 26, 2021, file photo, a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to a person at a vaccination site at a Salvation Army location in Philadelphia. More Black Americans say they are open to taking the coronavirus vaccine amid campaigns to overcome a shared historical distrust of science and government. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The average age of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Houston has dropped dramatically in recent weeks, due to what hospital officials say is the impact of vaccinations among older Texans.

Dr. James McCarthy, the chief physician executive at Memorial Hermann Health System, said there’s been a decade drop in the average age of COVID-19 patients occupying beds in the hospital’s intensive care units.

Right now, younger people are the primary spreaders of COVID-19, McCarthy said. 

“A large cohort of the older patients are now vaccinated — they’re not at risk,” McCarthy said. “We also know that the major driver of infection is in the kind of 35-40 year-olds…they’re the ones who’ve been moving it around the most. So there are just more of them that are proportionately being infected now.”

According to Texas Medical Center data, there are still about 100 new patients a day seeking treatment for COVID -19, CEO Bill McKeon said.

Of those, 60% are under the age of 60.

“The myth that this is an old person’s disease is just dead wrong,” McKeon said. “We are seeing people in their 30’s and 40’s, no pre-existing conditions, in our hospitals.”

There are just under 200 patients being treated for COVID-19 in Texas Medical Center ICUs right now. Both executives say getting more people vaccinated will drive that number down.

Recent changes in federal guidance will likely help those efforts.

Harris County began vaccinating kids aged 12 and up this week, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance authorizing use of the Pfizer vaccine on adolescents. That’s in addition to some hospitals in the Texas Medical Center, including Memorial Hermann, Houston Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, and well as more than 480 CVS Pharmacies.

McKeon said the move was “tremendously important,” telling Houston Matters hose Craig Cohen that vaccinating kids is crucial to ending the pandemic.

One of those kids is 14-year-old Pia Andrade, a soon-to-be freshman in high school.

Pia got her first dose at one of Houston Methodist’s vaccination clinics in Southwest Houston on Thursday.

“My mom is immunocompromised,” Andrade said. “So she’s more at risk for getting COVID. I just wanted to protect her and the rest of the people.”

Pia was the last of three children in her house to get the vaccine, and said none were forced to get it, even though their mom was more at risk for severe illness.

What’s pushing her desire to get vaccinated even more is the family vacation on the horizon this summer.

“I actually have grandparents who live in New Jersey, I haven’t seen them in over a year and a half due to COVID,” Pia said. “So once I get fully vaccinated, I’m actually gonna go see them over the summer, and I’m super excited about that.”