Nearly 1,300 Sonoma County children aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose of the pediatric COVID vaccine and as case rates inch up across the county as more people gather indoors, county health officials are urging parents to get their children vaccinated. Those across other age ranges who are unvaccinated but are eligible to receive the vaccine are also being urged to get vaccinated.
According to Sonoma County age-adjusted data from Jan. 1 to present, people who are unvaccinated are 6.5 times more likely than vaccinated people to be infected by COVID-19 and are a staggering 27.8 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID.
The data also shows that unvaccinated people are 13.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
“Some people ask me, ‘Why is it important that children get vaccinated? They’re not influenced as much by COVID-19 are they?’ The truth is they’re at lower risk of severe illness or death, but more than 5 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The vaccine provides a broad defense against COVID-19,” Casey D’Angelo, the vaccine chief for the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE), said during a Nov. 10 county COVID briefing.
“There are also several other practical benefits of vaccination,” he said. “There have been more than 2,000 COVID-19-related school closures nationwide since August, affecting more than 1 million children and 68,000 teachers. Most school closures affected a disproportionate amount of socioeconomic challenged children and or children of color. Most importantly, there is no need for vaccinated children to quarantine unless they are symptomatic. There will be less disruption to school and work.”
SCOE’s goal is to vaccinate 25% of the 37,000 children in Sonoma County aged 5 to 11 by Dec. 1.
Yesterday, Nov. 9, SCOE held its first vaccination clinics at Guerneville Elementary School in Guerneville and at Jefferson Elementary School in Cloverdale.
“Like everything we’ve done during the pandemic, our pediatric vaccine campaign is focused on equity. The target sites for school-based vaccine clinics are in areas with recent high case rates, areas with a high number of English learners and areas with lower vaccination rates,” Sonoma County District 1 Supervisor Susan Gorin said during the briefing.
If a school-based clinic isn’t in your area, parents can look to their child’s pediatric care provider, a local medical provider or a local pharmacy in order to make a vaccine appointment.
Seventy-three percent of the county’s eligible population age 5 and up is now fully vaccinated and 79% of the county’s eligible population age 5 and up is partially vaccinated and 761,404 doses have been administered as of Nov. 10, according to county data.
“The addition of the 5 to 11 group did increase the group of eligible residents. Because of that, the vaccination rate for the eligible population has gone down a bit,” said the county’s vaccine chief Dr. Urmila Shende.
According to the data, 58.7% of the county’s currently eligible 65+ year olds have received their booster doses.
A closer look at the county’s most recent case rates
COVID-19 case rates are increasing a bit in Sonoma County as the winter season approaches and as more people gather indoors, however, the vaccinated case rate remains drastically lower than the unvaccinated case rate.
The current case rate for the county’s unvaccinated population is 22.2 new cases per day per 100,000 people. The case rate for the county’s vaccinated population is 5.7 per day per 100,000 people. The county’s overall test positivity rate is 2.8% and test positivity rate in the lowest quartile of the healthy places index is 3%.
Sonoma County Epidemiologist Kate Pack said COVID-19 hospitalizations are averaging at 25 per day, an increase from last week when hospitalizations were averaging out at 20.
She said as we enter colder weather and the start of the holiday season, the county is seeing early signs of an increase in COVID transmission, mirroring the patterns that the county saw this time of year in 2020.
Overall, the largest source of known transmission is household transmission followed by gatherings and community and workplace transmission and while there may be some signs of a winter uptick in cases, in comparison to 2020 there are a number of factors working in the county’s favor to curb transmission.
According to Pack’s Wednesday briefing presentation, these factors include:
• Nearly 70% of the total population is fully vaccinated.
• Children 5 to 11 are now eligible to be vaccinated.
• Vaccine verification, testing and indoor masking health orders are in effect.
Pack cautioned that still a few risks remain. Thirty percent of the county’s population remain unvaccinated, the Delta COVID variant is still present and, “there’s an unknown degree to which waning immunity, booster effectiveness and uptake will balance one another.”
Colder, wet weather is also arriving, forcing more people indoors and there is the potential for more holiday travel and tourism. Hospital populations are also higher this year, meaning hospitals may become more easily overwhelmed.