San Francisco, CA

People who don’t want to be vaccinated in L.A. County will need to face tough measures, experts say

Josue Torres
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Experts believe that vaccination requirements at work and universities, along with reaching people door-to-door might be helpful factors to reduce coronavirus transmission, especially among unvaccinated people.

With coronavirus infections increasing among the unvaccinated and attempts to get them vaccinations faltering, some public health experts believe that more aggressive measures are required to get more of the population immunized.

California has previously used incentives such as prizes and game show-style events to encourage individuals to get vaccinated.

However, 41% of Californians of all ages have not been immunized. And two worrisome and interconnected developments are prompting demands for new thinking.

The coronavirus is growing in California, mostly among the unvaccinated. While infections and hospitalizations are still more than 93% fewer than they were at the peak, new daily coronavirus cases have almost tripled in the past month, from approximately 900 to more than 2,600 per day; hospitalizations have increased by over 75%, from 915 to 1,594.

Meanwhile, the rate of immunizations is slowing. According to reports, only around 58,000 vaccination doses are given each day statewide.

Though that average may increase as additional data is provided, it will still fall short of the high of 400,000 per day.

The answer will not be simple, but authorities and experts are convinced that they know what will work.

According to UC San Francisco epidemiology Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, sending trusted individuals in communities to advocate for vaccines at events and conducting door-to-door outreach may do wonders in persuading people to get vaccinated.

Getting vaccinations into the offices of primary care physicians, where doctors can directly address patients’ queries, may also be helpful.

Another approach would be to impose additional vaccination requirements, such as at work, according to Bibbins-Domingo.

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In case that is not feasible, she suggested that companies require unvaccinated employees to be tested on a daily basis, a strategy that has been employed elsewhere in the globe.

People who have been fully vaccinated have excellent protection against coronavirus infection and sickness.

Between December 7 and June 7, unvaccinated individuals made up 99.6% of coronavirus cases, 98.7% of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 99.8 percent of fatalities in Los Angeles County.

Nonetheless, outbreaks may be disruptive and a vaccinated person’s risk of being sick, although low, is increased if they are in the company of unvaccinated and infected individuals.

Ten individuals have recently tested positive for the coronavirus at the state Capitol, including those who were completely vaccinated.

When weekly incidence rates are high, some health professionals advise that even vaccinated individuals wear masks willingly in indoor public places, reducing the chance of a breakthrough coronavirus infection.

San Francisco has been a pioneer in requiring vaccinations for some employees.

San Francisco has already mandated that all employees in high-risk settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and residential institutions for the elderly, homeless, and prisons, be completely vaccinated by September 15.

Workers with legitimate religious or medical reasons will be granted an exemption, but they will be forced to be tested for the virus on a weekly basis.

San Francisco has also ordered all 35,000 municipal employees, including cops, firemen, custodians, and clerks, to be vaccinated or face losing their jobs, unless they have a religious or medical exemption.

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The University of California and California State University institutions have also stated that all students, professors, and employees on campus would ultimately be required to obtain COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination will be required for admission to dozens of schools throughout the country beginning in the autumn, including Yale, Princeton, and Columbia.

Experts believe that even if requirements grow more frequent, on-the-ground outreach is still necessary. And there is reason to think that more of it will be beneficial.

San Francisco, for example, has one of the highest vaccination rates in California: 75% of people of all ages are at least partially vaccinated, and 69% are completely vaccinated.

While the per capita case rate has risen, it is still less than half that of L.A. County. While hospitalizations are increasing in Los Angeles County, they are usually steady in San Francisco.

San Francisco’s outreach to the hard-hit Latino population, in particular, has been a model, with 72 percent of Latino residents receiving at least one shot, a rate even higher than white residents, who are at least partly vaccinated at a rate of 65 percent.

In many parts of the United States, Latinos fall behind white inhabitants in terms of immunization rates.

There have been teams who go out to areas like San Francisco’s Tenderloin District to encourage vaccines and give injections to individuals on the streets, in shops, and in churches.

It is also critical that the individuals delivering the message of importance and the vaccine are well-respected members of the community.

For many people, the personal touch is also important, particularly when it comes to countering misconceptions about vaccines.

Relationships definitely matter, said Dr. Christina Ghaly, head of health services for Los Angeles County, on Tuesday.

Officials in Santa Clara County, which has a high vaccination rate and steady hospitalizations, selected census tracts with the lowest vaccination rates and concentrated on them to establish vaccination clinics.

They’ve also targeted critical employees in sectors like child care, education, and agriculture, and have collaborated with unions and businesses to reach more individuals.

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In the Central Valley, UC Merced Community and Labor Center Executive Director Ana Padilla said there is still a need for improved access to the vaccination; as well as excellent information about it, for example for individuals like agricultural laborers, who are now working during the busiest time of the year.

She recommended that a larger effort be made to connect trustworthy community-based organizations to provide vaccinations near work locations, since they would be more prepared to address employees’ concerns.

L.A. County, where 60% of people of all ages have received at least one shot and 52% are completely vaccinated, is adopting a similar strategy by concentrating vaccination clinics in hard-hit regions.

However, L.A. County has a much more daunting challenge: it is the nation’s most populated area, and blanketing the county with intensive outreach efforts may be more difficult here.

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