Berkeley among highest vaccination rates in US

photo of the Berkeley city skyline
Nick Quinlan/Staff
One of the highest in the nation, Berkeley’s COVID-19 vaccination rate of 93% can be attributed to the approval of vaccinations for children, workplace mandates and the return of UC Berkeley students to campus, among other factors.

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The city of Berkeley has reported a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 93% among the eligible population — one of the highest vaccination rates of any city in the United States.

City of Berkeley Public Health Officer Lisa Hernandez said the initial rollout of the vaccine depended on tier eligibility. She noticed increases in vaccinations when children were approved — including parents getting the shots alongside their children — and when the delta variant emerged, as well as when workplace mandates were put in place.

“We have been in this together in the strangest way – lonely, yet caring for each other by taking every precaution and rising to every challenge,” City Councilmember Sophie Hahn said in an email. “Once again, we’ve demonstrated our commitment to each others’ wellbeing by getting vaccinated. There’s nothing we can’t do in Berkeley if we put our hearts and minds to it.”

Hernandez said one of the reasons the vaccination rate in Berkeley is so high is because residents value science and understand the importance of public health measures such as the vaccine.

The increase in the city’s vaccination rate was also due to the arrival of UC Berkeley students who were vaccinated out of town, according to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.

UC Berkeley has a vaccination rate of 97.9%, according to Hernandez, and it also offers services such as testing on campus.

“I cannot minimize the importance that UC Berkeley has played in controlling the disease,” Hernandez said.

City Councilmember Rigel Robinson noted that vaccine requirements served as a strong motivator.

Many businesses and establishments in Berkeley are requiring proof of vaccination, and campus students and city employees are required to be vaccinated, according to Robinson.

“Vaccine mandates work, and they keep our community safe,” Robinson said in an email. “All of these efforts add up, and the city and the region are more resilient as a result.”

According to Hernandez, the next steps will be to focus on specific groups that have lower rates of vaccination. The age group of 50- to 64-year-olds has the lowest vaccination rate in Berkeley at 81%, followed by 35- to 49-year-olds.

The African American community in Berkeley is 72% vaccinated — “a strong number,” Hernandez said, but much lower than overall rates — so the city also plans to work with community leadership to increase vaccinations.

According to Hernandez, the latest rollout of the Pfizer booster shot is “more of a gradual response” than the initial vaccine rollout. She added that she hopes there will be a “robust” response when the vaccine is approved for children under 12.

“Hearing that the City has a 93% vax rate just made me all the more glad I live here, and glad that I live among like-minded residents who value and care about health, science, and, most importantly, each other!” said Carrie Kahn, a Berkeley resident of 26 years in a Twitter direct message. “I think all Berkeleyans should be proud and give themselves a pat on the back.”

Contact Lance Roberts and Lauren Good at [email protected].