As several geographies within the United States gradually unwind COVID-19 restrictions, the city of San Francisco in California has emerged as a ray of hope suggesting that the prospect of achieving herd immunity may not be as elusive as previously thought. With the city boasting vaccination rates markedly higher than the national average, several epidemiologists are predicting that San Francisco could very well become the first major city in the US to achieve herd immunity.ace-play-rewards
Herd immunity, in its essence, is premised on an assumption that if enough of the population is vaccinated or becomes infected with the virus, recovers, and develops antibodies, the virus will no longer be able to spread through the population. It was originally believed that, for this to be achieved, at least 60 to 70 per cent of the population would need to be infected.
But the emergence of new variants thought to be more contagious has meant that that target has gradually changed, with a briefing from the Yale School of Medicine noting that, for herd immunity to materialise, upwards of 80 per cent of the population may now need to be vaccinated or have developed natural immunity.
San Francisco is close to achieving that 80 per cent target. According to the latest data from its public health department, 791,131 out of its 874,784 residents are eligible (includes everyone aged 12 and older) for vaccination.
Of its eligible residents, 79 per cent have received, at least, a single dose of the vaccine. 69 per cent or 542,864 of the city's population have completed a vaccine series i.e. completed a two-dose vaccine regimen or taken a single-dose vaccine. Among those above the age of 65, 80 per cent have been fully vaccinated with 90 per cent having received, at least, one dose of any vaccine currently in circulation.
To put San Francisco's success into perspective, it is worth noting that, as of June 9, just 51.7 per cent of the entire eligible US population had received, at least, one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with only 42.4 per cent fully vaccinated.
The city's success hinges on a number of key advantages it has. Firstly, it has significantly fewer children than several other major cities meaning that a larger proportion of its population is eligible for vaccination.
What's more, the city's previous experience with the AIDS/HIV outbreak has meant that its residents do not share the same level of vaccine hesitancy as witnessed in other parts of the US. San Francisco's population is also densely packed into a region that spans only 47 square miles, making the task of door-to-door outreach conducted by health workers markedly easier.
It is worth noting that there are some counties around the country with even higher rates of full vaccination than San Francisco such as Hamilton County and New York. But none of these places contains a major city.
The state of California in which San Francisco resides has, reportedly, administered, at least, a single dose of a vaccine to 58 per cent of its population as per data gathered by the Los Angeles Times. While ranking high among states with the best vaccination rates in the country, California still trails eleven other states including Hawaii, Massachusetts and Vermont.