San Francisco, CA

Two San Francisco Bay Area cities just ten minutes apart have huge differences in COVID vaccination rates

Ed Walsh

Holbrook-Palmer Park in Atherton Photo courtesy City of Atherton

There is a wide disparity on vaccination rates in cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to data obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. But no more glaring examples are the contrast between the San Mateo County cities of East Palo Alto and Atherton.

The cities are just ten minutes apart but Atherton has a vaccination rate of about 75% of its residents having received at least one shot versus East Palo Alto where only 24% of the population is vaccinated. Atherton regularly tops lists of the richest cities in the country.

The Chronicle used data from four Bay Area counties that release information on the percentage of residents 16 and over vaccinated by city: San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco. The Chronicle found that in second place in the Bay Area was the Contra Costa County city of Walnut Creek where 66% of its residents got at least one shot. The Contra County City of Bay Point, had the second lowest percent of people vaccinated at 25%, just one percent more than East Palo Alto.

The paper apparently was not able to obtain data for the Bay Area’s most populous county, Santa Clara, that has the hardest hit by the pandemic in the Bay Area. Presumably, it also has the highest rates of natural immunity as people have recovered

The Chronicle found that after teasing out eligible populations, Atherton had about 33 percent of its population eligible for the COVID vaccine but 75 percent of its residents were vaccinated.

According to, Atherton has a median income of over $200,000 per year versus the $80,0440 average in California. The median gross rent in Atherton is $3,774. The median cost of a house in Atherton is over a million dollars versus $568,500 statewide. Altherton is 67-percent white, 22-percent Asian, less than one percent African American and about four-percent Hispanic.

By contrast, the median income in East Palo Alto is $75,762. Median gross rent in East Palo Alto is $1,904, expensive by non-Bay Area standards but still cheaper by almost two thousand dollars than Altherton. The median cost of a house in East Palo Alto is $929,899.The Hispanic population of East Palo Alto is about 65-percent, African American population of East Palo Alto is about ten percent, whites make up also about ten percent of the population followed by the Asian population which is about five percent.

Comparing the Contra Costa County cities of Walnut Creek and Bay Point also highlight similar disparities. The median income of Walnut Creek is $120,238 but dramatically lower in Bay Point with a median icnome of $24,679. The median cost of a detached house in Bay Point is $411,492 but in Walnut Creek, you will have to shell out more than a million dollars for the same house. Whites make up 66% of Walnut Creek, Asians 16%, Hispanics 9%, and African Americans less than two percent.

San Francisco's vaccination rates vary by sections of the city. On Saturday, the city held a drop-in vaccination center to reach Treasure Island which had the lowest vaccination rates in San Francisco. The city's Tenderloin has also been given priority for vaccinations after being named by California officials as an underserved community.

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