Alameda County Hits New County Resident Vaccination Milestone

Alameda County Hits New County Resident Vaccination Milestone

On. Jan. 13, the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD) announced that more than 1.3 million Alameda County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. At this milestone, 80.2 percent of all residents are fully vaccinated, more than 86.5 percent have had at least one dose, and 49.2 percent of all eligible have received a booster. However, vaccination rates vary in communities across Alameda County and health agency officials are redoubling efforts to address disparities.

“This pandemic is not behind us. With the highly transmissible Omicron variant rapidly increasing COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations, we’re urging eligible residents to get vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible,” said Colleen Chawla, Director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency (HCSA). “We have come a long way, and we still have work ahead to protect our communities from this deadly virus.”

Alameda County has seen a sharp rise in new cases since mid-December. Health officials continue to remind residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of infection by getting fully vaccinated and boosted, when eligible. Vaccines are free and widely available for anyone 5 and older, and booster shots are available for people 12 and older. Vaccines are safe and effectively prevent hospitalization and death due to COVID.

The virus is specifically impacting those communities where vaccination rates are lowest, including in neighborhoods that have already been hit hardest by COVID-19. Although a proportionally small number of generally mild cases are reported among vaccinated residents, most new cases are occurring in unvaccinated people.

Seventy-one percent of Hispanic/Latino/a/x and 69.3 percent of Black/African American Alameda County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and residents are strongly encouraged to get their second doses and boosters for best protection against serious illness or hospitalization.

Vaccination disparities persist in high poverty neighborhoods and communities of color. Health disparities existed prior to COVID-19, but the pandemic has amplified these challenges. Alameda County prioritized resources to the communities where these disparities were occurring and resulting in disproportionate impacts. This strategy is reflected in community testing, case investigation and contact tracing, resources to support isolation and quarantine, vaccination and now supporting community coalitions.

“Organizations that are part of the recently funded community coalitions will be key partners in ensuring continued vaccination success with our communities of color. They will be instrumental in outreach, health education, appointment navigation, and providing culturally competent/bilingual staff at County-supported vaccine sites. Alameda County continues to prioritize improving vaccination rates where we are seeing the greatest disparities,” said Kimi Watkins-Tartt, the Health Care Services Agency’s Public Health Department Director.

At vaccination clinics, staff reflect the diversity of Alameda County’s community at clinics and bilingual staff are present to answer questions residents may have about the vaccine and dispel any misconceptions.

Alameda County partners with community-based organizations, who have trusted relationships with the communities facing the worst COVID outcomes and understand their histories and cultures, to improve residents’ access to accurate information and vaccination.

Direct outreach has been successful in targeting the Latino/a/x and African American residents. This includes participating in door-to-door outreach in priority neighborhoods that have low vaccination rates. Through doors-to-door outreach, members of local grassroots groups from their neighborhoods provide information about the COVID vaccine and where residents can get vaccinated nearby.

As the pandemic rages on, we ask residents to remain vigilant and take steps to lower the risk of transmitting COVID-19 including:
• Keep gatherings small, short and, if possible, outdoors. 
• When gathering inside, ventilate well. Open doors and windows, run HVAC systems and install high-quality air filters. 
• Everyone must wear a mask in indoor public settings. Consider wearing a mask in indoor private settings if gathering with medically vulnerable friends and family or if someone’s vaccination status is unknown.
• If possible, get tested to know your COVID-19 status before gathering with friends and family. Plan to test 3-5 days after gathering or traveling too. 
• Stay home if sick or tested positive, even if an at-home test is used.

Residents looking for testing sites may visit the county’s testing page to find a location. More information about vaccine clinics and how to make appointments through the county’s vaccine clinic page or through myturn.ca.gov.

This editorial originally ran on the ACPHD website.