Solano County has lowest vaccination rate in Bay Area

Marin County is approaching 100% of eligible residents with one COVID vaccine dose

San Francisco Chronicle, by Kellie Hwang, Sep. 20, 2021

Kristina Skierka of Lucas Valley makes an appointment for her second COVID-19 vaccine with Jackson Murphy at the drive-through vaccination location at Larkspur Ferry Terminal in Marin County in April. Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

Marin County has marked a new pandemic-fighting milestone, with more than 90% of its eligible population now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to county data, 90.7% of residents 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of Monday. A whopping 97.3% of Marin’s eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose.

Among its total population, Marin’s rate of completed vaccinations is 78%, with 84% partially vaccinated. Marin has the highest overall vaccination rate of all counties in California and is among the top 10 most highly vaccinated counties in the U.S.

The county this weekend tweeted about surpassing the 90% milestone for vaccinations among those eligible, thanking residents “for choosing to be vaccinated for the health of our community,”

Marin County health officer Matt Willis said that means the community is “better protected,” which is measured by “lives saved.”

“It’s gratifying to see the impact,” he said. “There is a clear correlation between communities with high vaccination rates and low case rates.”

Marin’s average daily cases over the past week is just over 10 per 100,000 residents — the lowest figure in the Bay Area and less than half of the figure in California, the state with the lowest case rate in the nation.

Willis said a number of benefits and privileges in Marin County have helped it achieve high vaccination rates, driven by a “strong belief in science” and “strong demand for vaccines.” Willis said the county is a more highly educated, higher-income community, and is also older, with a median age of 47.3, the highest in the Bay Area.

With data showing disparities in vaccination rates broken down along political lines in the U.S. — with rates lower for Republicans than for Democrats — he noted that the county is liberal-leaning, with 61% identifying as Democrats and 13% as Republicans.

Willis also attributed Marin’s vaccination success to the tight-knit nature of the county, contributions from both the public and private sectors, and the county emergency operations center’s coordination efforts.

The Bay Area in general has boasted high vaccination rates, especially when compared to the rest of the state and country. According to the Los Angeles Times vaccine tracker, the Bay Area’s counties with the exception of  Solano  are at the top of the rankings for vaccination rates statewide.

San Mateo County has the next highest vaccination rate after Marin, with 84% of the eligible population fully vaccinated.  Solano  County has the lowest vaccination rate in the Bay Area, with 65% of eligible residents fully vaccinated.

[BenIndy editor: See also detailed data on Solano County vaccines as of 9/20/21 from the Solano County COVID-19 Dashboard.  The “Vaccines – Demographics” tab shows data by race, age, gender and city.  – R.S.]

Marin County data by age category shows the highest vaccination rate is in the 65 and older group with 93% of eligible residents fully vaccinated. The next highest age group is 18- to 34-year-olds at 88%, while the least vaccinated age group is 12- to 17-year-olds at 82%.

According to the U.S. Census, 46% of Marin County residents are 50 or older, 32% is 20 to 49, and 23% is 0 to 19. By comparison, in  Solano , the Bay Area’s lowest vaccinated county, 36% of residents are 50 or older, 40% are 20 to 49, and 25% are 0 to 19.

County data shows that among racial and ethnic groups in Marin, Asians have the highest rate at 89% of eligible residents fully vaccinated, followed by Hispanic or Latino residents at 86% and white residents at 83%. Black and African American residents are the lowest vaccinated group in the county at 78%. (The county notes that these percentages may be underreported by five to 10 percentage points because of missing race and ethnicity data in state vaccination records.)

Willis said similar to many places across the country, “Some members of historically marginalized groups have well-founded reasons to mistrust what they might see as a medical establishment,” especially in the county’s Black and African American communities, which Willis said is “not something that can be solved overnight.”

Mercedes Morgan of Performing Stars helps assemble care packages that will be delivered to COVID-positive residents in public housing in Marin City in July. Performing Stars has helped with COVID vaccination outreach efforts in Marin County. Alvin A.H. Jornada/Special to The Chronicle

But the strong overall demand for vaccines allowed the county to focus its outreach on marginalized groups, Willis said, by working with trusted leaders in the Black and African American communities, particularly in Marin City and Novato. He said the effort, which has included deploying mobile teams there, has resulted in a recent increase in vaccinations.

Willis also said the county has had a “reputation of being a bastion of anti-vaccine sentiment historically,” that is a “small but very vocal group” of mostly affluent white residents.

“Our strategy is really not to waste too much time trying to fight that battle with people who have basically made that decision decades ago as part of a fixed belief,” he said. “Despite the fact they may be vocal, they are a relatively small subset of the population and our numbers show that.”

He said at this point he is “fairly confident” that those who are not vaccinated are “by choice and not for lack of opportunity,” and believes the county did what it could to “remove any barriers related to geography or access.”

Kellie Hwang is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.