City of Berkeley boasts high booster vaccination rates

Photo of a COVID-19 vaccine sign at a CVS
Caroline Lobel/Staff
Berkeley's vaccination rates are high, but the mandatory waiting period between the date of one's last vaccine shot and their booster shot is one factor that has contributed to lower booster rates.

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According to the city of Berkeley’s COVID-19 dashboard, 91% of all Berkeley residents are fully vaccinated, and of those, 46% have received a booster shot.

These latest numbers on vaccination rates in Berkeley come at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising due to the rapid spread of the omicron variant. City Councilmember Rigel Robinson stated in an email that despite Berkeley being one of the “most vaccinated cities in the country,” this particular surge is “nothing like we’ve seen before.”

In response to the surge of COVID-19, Robinson said the city is focusing on getting people tested.

“We are expanding testing capacity dramatically at our four city-coordinated testing sites to meet the demand, and are receiving thousands of rapid tests which we are making available to community organizations with a focus on getting them to residents least likely to be able to get them on their own,” Robinson said in the email.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn said Berkeley has done an “outstanding job” with getting both vaccinated and boosted. She added that the number of boosted Berkeley residents may be even higher in the near future.

“​The statistics … reflect a number of factors, including the fact that for many individuals it’s ‘too soon’ to be boosted — children and teens, for example, received their first set of vaccines just a few months ago — and because data from UC Berkeley is not yet integrated (into) the City’s dashboard,” Hahn said in an email.

Despite a vast majority of Berkeley citizens having been vaccinated, there remains a large disparity in how Black citizens in Berkeley have fared during the pandemic. According to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard, Black residents in Berkeley have both the highest hospitalization rate and the highest death rate of any demographic group. The Black community in Berkeley also has the second-lowest vaccination rate of any demographic group.

Campus public health professor John Swartzberg said there are a number of reasons why this disparity exists.

“There is nothing about African American’s ability to fight the virus that accounts for their poorer outcomes,” Swartzberg said in an email. “Rather, it has to do with their greater risk of getting infected (e.g., having to work in riskier conditions), poorer access to health care, persistent distrust in the medical and public health establishments.”

As to whether or not the omicron outbreak will lead to increased numbers of those getting vaccinated, Swartzberg said there may be mixed results.

Swartzberg added in the email that despite the delay in getting appointments, booster vaccines are still accessible to those who seek them out.

“On one hand, the explosion in the number of cases has prompted more to get vaccinated,” Swartzberg said in the email. “On the other hand, because Omicron causes less severe disease in some, there is less of a desire to get vaccinated (this is a mistake).”

Lance Roberts is a student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @lance_roberts.