The speed of new COVID-19 vaccinations is increasing in nearly every part of California, and some of the biggest boosts are coming in counties with low cumulative vaccination rates or where the delta variant’s recent surge has hit hardest.
First-dose vaccinations for the seven days ending Monday were up 21% statewide compared to the previous week, a Sacramento Bee review of California Department of Public Health data found, continuing a trend that started around the time health officials began giving dire warnings about the highly contagious delta variant.
And the pace has increased faster than that average in all five counties with the highest recent case rates, as well as in four of the five counties with the lowest proportions of their populations at least partially vaccinated.
In fact, three of the four counties with the biggest week-over-week increase in first-dose vaccinations were in California’s bottom five for vaccination rates over the course of the rollout: Kings, Tehama and Yuba.
Yuba County, which is on both “bottom 5” lists at 36% with at least one dose and a recent rate of 23 daily cases per 100,000 residents, had 595 new first-dose vaccinations for the week ending July 26, up 57% from 378 the week ending July 19.
Kings County, where almost exactly one-third have had a dose, saw the fastest growth: its 916 injections were an 81% leap from the prior week. Kings has the third-lowest vaccination rate statewide, ahead of only Lassen and Tehama County.
Tehama had the fourth-quickest growth, up 53% week-over-week.
Lassen County was one of only four counties, all of them sparsely populated, that saw fewer new vaccinations than the previous week. Inyo, Mono and Plumas all also recorded declines, though slight.
Lassen has by far the state’s worst vaccination rate, with only about 22% of residents having had at least one dose. That’s more than 10 percentage points behind the next-lowest, Tehama, which was at 33%.
As for counties experiencing the steepest surges, Lake County — which recently topped the list at 40 cases per 100,000 — saw first jabs jump 48% week-to-week, up to 564.
Del Norte (17.1 per 100,000) increased by 30%; and Sacramento (18.2) and Contra Costa (17) each sped up a little over 25% compared to the prior week.
The statewide case rate was 12.7 per 100,000 over the past week, according to a Wednesday update from CDPH.
The latest trends buck weeks of decline that started around late May, when a bump from children age 12 to 15 becoming eligible started to wear off, and lasted through early July.
Increased demand is likely coming at least in part due to concerns about the highly infectious delta variant. The current delta surge is California’s first to begin after COVID-19 vaccines rolled out in mid-December, and may be changing minds or increasing urgency for at least some who’d previously been on the fence.
Whether the spike is a short-term trend or a longer-term trend remains to be seen.
Vaccinations picking up steam in counties with low rates would be a promising development for health officials, who have widely been cautioning that delta, or perhaps an even worse, future variant that has yet to be detected, will ravage poorly vaccinated communities.
“At this point in the pandemic, you’re either going to get vaccinated or you’re going to get COVID,” Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, said in a statement last week.