Santa Clara County leads region on COVID booster shots
San Jose-based physician Dr. Daljeet Rai, 62, was among the first in Santa Clara County to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose. Omicron has changed the landscape once more, with boosters now recommended. File photo.

    Some Santa Clara County residents are rushing to get COVID-19 booster shots as infections from the omicron variant rise and the effectiveness of initial shots wanes.

    Following the announcement of the first omicron infection in Santa Clara County earlier this month, on Dec. 16 health officials reported 44% of eligible residents had received a booster shot. Two weeks later and that jumped to 53%.

    In that timeframe, the number of reported COVID-19 infections in the county grew from 250 to 1,000, Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said during a Tuesday news conference.

    “I think that the surge in omicron has inspired many to get boosters,” she told San José Spotlight, “and has kept our booster demand stable.” 

    Cody said breakthrough delta and omicron infections also affect people who are vaccinated but not yet boosted, which is why boosting is essential. Warning that the omicron variant grows with “breathtaking speed” and protection from the initial series of vaccines wanes over time, she urged residents ages 16+ to get boosted.

    “It’s really important to get boosted, and boost your level of protection back where it needs to be to weather this surge,” she said.

    Meanwhile, booster rates in other counties are lagging behind.

    In Monterey County, with a population of 439,035 residents, just 28% of eligible residents have received a booster shot as of Dec. 17, according to a statement, and only half of residents age 50+ have received one. As of Dec. 27, in San Mateo County with 774,990 residents, 288,078 of those eligible have received booster shots. In San Francisco County, 362,409 of its 873,965 residents have received a booster.

    While approximately half of eligible Santa Clara County residents are boosted, the daily number of booster shots being administered among those who have not is decreasing. It peaked on Dec. 8 with 14,085 people receiving the shot, but fell to 7,752 on average between Dec. 20-27.

    Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, professor of global health and infectious diseases at Stanford University School of Medicine, said people aren’t as eager to get boosters now as they were earlier.

    “Right before the holidays, people really jumped on it,” she told San José Spotlight. “Then it slowed down as people (went) on vacation and (were) out doing other things.”

    Maldonado said this may be because the omicron variant is more transmissible, but doesn’t seem to be causing as much severe illness, especially in Santa Clara County. She cautioned people to take getting a booster seriously as there is still a risk of getting infected.

    “We need to keep on the program,” she said. “We’re not going to get rid of COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2, but we’re at least hopefully keeping people from getting sick enough to be hospitalized and die.”

    Cody said while the exact severity of omicron compared with other variants is unknown, as case rates are rapidly increasing, a portion of people that get sick will require a hospital bed. She said health officials anticipate cases will exceed what they did last winter.

    “The deluge is here, and we each need to take some additional steps to get us through to the other side,” she said.

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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