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San Diego’s vaccination rate inches upward as new variant arrives

Around the turn of the year, when the Omicron variant sent the number of coronavirus infections soaring, it was not uncommon for the mobile vaccination units run by local nonprofit Champions for Health to administer hundreds of doses per day.

But things have slowed down significantly since then, with an event on Fairmount Avenue in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood giving 42 shots Saturday afternoon. That’s how it has gone lately, said Han Asoy, a registered nurse and immunization lead coordinator with the organization. Lately, she said, these kinds of events tend to draw 50 to 100 people, with the bulk coming in to get second shots or booster doses.

A somewhat-surprising wrinkle appeared during the four-hour event Saturday afternoon: Though the overall total was not enormous, about half of those who rolled up their sleeves were getting their first doses.

“We did have what we would consider quite a few first doses today,” Asoy said.

While one day’s results do not make a trend, some may be aware that COVID has been making a bit of a comeback as BA.2, the Omicron variant’s more-transmissible cousin, begins to take hold across the United States.

According to the latest county vaccination report, published Wednesday, about 394,000 people across the region still have not had the first dose, though roughly 196,000 of those are younger than age 5 and have not yet been approved to receive the vaccine, leaving about 198,000 who are eligible but still unvaccinated. Only 55 percent of those who are eligible to receive booster shots have so far received them.

Nancy Vidal of City Heights was among those who came in for her first shot Saturday. Having fought off COVID in 2021, she said she decided now was the time to get started on her vaccination journey.

She said that the hard sell last year to take the vaccination plunge just felt a little over-the-top. If this new vaccine was so great, she wondered, why were so many people telling her she just had to get it? Most in her family did receive the vaccine and watching their progress, she said, gave her more confidence that there was no unrecognized or undisclosed problem waiting for her after she felt the tiny sting of the needle.

“I feel like you shouldn’t push that person who isn’t ready so hard,” she said. “Just give them the time they need to make that choice.”

How many more will start coming forward now that the first doses of coronavirus vaccine were administered more than one year ago? It’s hard to say.

Like Vidal, Taryn Jackson, a City Heights resident who dropped in Saturday to get her booster because God told her to, saw little value in convincing others.

“I don’t know. It’s up to them, just like they should wear masks. Some wear ‘em, some don’t,” Jackson said. “God makes people how they are. Some can understand, and some can’t. It’s just how it is.”

Thus far, 2.5 million people living in San Diego County have completed their initial vaccination courses, with 1.2 million receiving boosters. About 3.1 million of the region’s 3.3 million residents are currently eligible.

Anyone interested in finding a vaccination site can visit sandiegocounty.gov.



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