OAKLAND, CA – APRIL 9: Katherine Lopez, left, receives her COVID-19 vaccination at the Clínica de La Raza test site along East 12th Street and Derby Avenue in Oakland, California, on Thursday, April 29, 2021. (Jane Tusk’s / Bay Area News Group)
While the Bay Area strives for community immunity to COVID-19, experts are concerned that the region could be held back by younger people whose vaccination rates so far follow other groups.
Multiple Bay Area counties, including Santa Clara, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda, report that fewer people in their teens, 20s and 30s received the shots than their older counterparts.
While only two weeks have passed since all Californians 16 and older were eligible, local officials and epidemiologists warn that the lower rates – coupled with an overall slowdown in demand – could seed persistent outbreaks in the region as the economy becomes fully reopens.“We have still done our work for us.
People still get sick from COVID, ”said Dr. Marty Fester Shein, Santa Clara County Testing and Vaccine Officer, at a news conference Friday. “Let me say to your young adults and our teens, it’s your turn now.
Help us make it to the finish line.” In Santa Clara County, just over half of the ages 16 to 29 have at least one dose of it. vaccine, compared with about 71% of those in their 30s, 66% in their 40s, and much higher rates among the elderly. Only one in three teenagers has been vaccinated.
Older Californians have been vaccinated for months, increasing their percentage, but healthy residents under 50 were all eligible at the same time.
Likewise, in Contra Costa, about 50% of people aged 16 to 30 are vaccinated, compared to at least 60% of all other age groups. In Alameda County, approximately 56% of the 16 to 34 age groups have received at least one dose, compared with more than 70% in all other age groups.
Not all provinces show the same trends or report data in a similar way. In San Francisco, a slightly higher proportion of vaccines have gone to ages 16 to 34 compared to the population size of the group, data shows. Statewide, 49% of 18-49 year olds have received at least one injection, as have 67.4% of 50-64 year olds and 74.1% of those over 65.
In total, about 58% of California adults have had at least one injection, compared to about 55% of all American adults.
Younger people may be vaccinated at lower rates for a variety of reasons, officials say, including the belief that they are unlikely to get very sick from COVID-19 or because they are unsure how to navigate the complex naming process. San Jose’s W.C. Andrea Hernandez, a graduate of Over Felt High School, said on Friday that her peers have shared social media posts arguing that the vaccine is not important because young people are not in a risk group for severe COVID-19 disease and death. Statistically, that’s true, but it’s also true that younger people have the highest rates of infection and can transmit the virus to those who are much more vulnerable.
“I believe the spread of false stories keeps the youth from getting our vaccines and hesitating to get our vaccines,” said Hernandez. “As more people my age come out to get the vaccine and how important it is, I believe more people can get it.”
The concerns arise during an already precarious time for the rollout of the vaccine. Last week, counties from Santa Clara to Marin to Los Angeles said they have reached a tipping point where vaccine supply starts to outpace demand, raising questions about how to move beyond the first wave of vaccine-hungry residents.
To remove time and technology barriers to the application process and attract more people, some Bay Area counties are expanding walk-up slots, pop-up clinics, and evening hours at existing locations. Los Angeles County officials said Friday they would close the mass vaccination site at Dodgers Stadium and shift resources to staffing-free dispensaries across the district.
Younger people should be targeted with a more specific stick-and-carrot approach, said UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. While the ‘stick’ could mean universities and schools would need vaccinations to participate, which some are already planning to do, the ‘carrot’ should include a range of incentives, such as a free donut for anyone showing their vaccination card for special privileges at concerts and festivals.
“The vaccine is no longer the hot ticket in the city,” said Chin-Hong. “That was part of the allure, it was fashionable … Now it’s not one-size-fits-all.
” In the meantime, unvaccinated Californians shouldn’t be “shamed by vaccines,” Chin-Hong said. While a small percentage of residents choose never to take a photo, it’s important to make the process as easy – and apolitical – as possible for those on the fence. “The more young people talk to other young people,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, “the better we’ll be.”