San Jose closing in on herd immunity for COVID-19
Clinical nurse Jesse Rideout sticks a syringe into a vial of COVID-19 vaccine before administering it. Photo by Vicente Vera.

San Jose has partially vaccinated 85% of eligible residents for COVID-19, becoming the first major American city to reach the milestone, according to Mayor Sam Liccardo. Whether that constitutes herd immunity remains to be seen.

In partnering with Santa Clara County, the most populous city in the Bay Area has partially vaccinated more than 740,000 residents over the age of 12, county data shows. In Santa Clara County, about 82% of residents are partially inoculated.

The county is still recording a rolling seven-day average of about 31 positive infections, but new cases and deaths are at all-time lows, county data shows.

Neighboring Bay Area cities such as San Francisco and Oakland are also inching toward San Jose’s milestone, having partially vaccinated 82% and 79.6% of their eligible populations, respectively. Some experts projected last month that San Francisco would be the first major city to hit the milestone.

“Special thanks to all of our business/community partners, volunteers, @SCCgov, @HealthySCC, @CityofSanJose employees, & every resident who got their shot,” Liccardo tweeted. “Our work is not yet done.”

The news of the milestone popped up Monday night in a tweet by Paul Meyere Da Silveira, a policy analyst in the mayor’s office. The tweet claimed that San Jose reached herd immunity, gaining dozens of retweets and hundreds of likes, before the official deleted it.

The mayor’s office didn’t respond to questions from San José Spotlight about the milestone and claims of herd immunity.

Herd immunity happens when enough people in a community are immune either through vaccination or from surviving a previous infection.

Public health experts have different opinions on how much of the population needs to have immunity to reach that goal. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimates that between 70% and 85% of the population needs to be vaccinated to meet the threshold of herd immunity.

But some believe the U.S. won’t reach herd immunity at all with the looming threat of new variants.

Still, maximizing vaccination rates remains a top priority in Santa Clara County.

The county has one of California’s highest rates of vaccination, with 75.3% of residents fully vaccinated as of this week. The county is optimistic about hitting its goal of fully vaccinating 85% of eligible residents by Aug. 1.

Since late January, the county upped its efforts to bring the vaccine to hard-hit areas in the South Bay, including neighborhoods in East San Jose. It saw record-breaking numbers of daily administered doses in mid-April when it received a large vaccination allocation from the federal government.

With vaccine hesitancy persisting, Santa Clara County continues to offer prizes—including professional athlete meet-and-greets, gift cards and live music—to get people to show up for their shots.

In San Jose, about 130,000 people still haven’t received any dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Countywide, approximately 308,750 residents have yet to get vaccinated.

“It is still very important for unvaccinated members of the public to protect themselves, avoid large gatherings and to be tested if they are exposed to COVID-19,” a county spokesperson told San José Spotlight.

Click here to find available walk-up vaccination clinics in San Jose.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

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