Vaccination level in Summit County ‘flat-out remarkable,’ officials say
Nearly 70% of Summit County adults have had at least one shot
In January, there were 42 diagnosed COVID-19 cases among Summit County residents aged 70 or older, according to county data. In March, that number was zero.
Summit County officials called that statistic “remarkable” and said it shows that vaccines are working.
Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough presented data to the Board of Health Monday night that painted an optimistic picture of the local coronavirus situation, with high testing numbers, low positivity rates, high vaccine uptake and few new cases.
But the assessment came with a new warning about virus variants that appear to be affecting the youngest members of the community.
More than 90% of Summit County adults 65 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine and more than 80% of those 50 or older have done so, according to county data.
For all adults 18 and older in Summit County — the population eligible to receive any of the three approved vaccines — that figure is 68%, approaching the mark that health officials have targeted to reach a level of herd immunity against the virus.
“That is flat-out remarkable,” Bullough told the Board of Health Monday. “I just want to pause there for a moment. We forecasted that we would perhaps get around 70% in July. We now are anticipating this could even happen this week, hitting 70%.”
Officials have said achieving herd immunity would significantly curtail the virus’s spread in a community, offering the disease few human hosts in which it could replicate.
Bullough and county Nursing Director Derek Moss lauded the community’s willingness to receive a vaccine, with some residents driving to neighboring counties when there weren’t enough doses locally to satisfy demand.
Bullough said that the vaccination rates on the eastern and western sides of the county were roughly equal, though he did note a drop-off in younger populations.
He added that younger people are frequently seeking the vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson, which has been in relatively short supply in Utah. After an initial shipment, it had been three weeks before more doses arrived here.
The Johnson & Johnson-manufactured vaccine requires only one dose, while the vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses.
Officials have framed the current stage of the pandemic as “vaccine vs. variant,” with vaccination seen as a key to preventing the virus’s widespread mutation.
Indeed, it is the “U.K. variant” that is spreading among young children in the county, Bullough said.
“There was a period of time a couple of weeks ago where … the majority of our cases were in very young people, and they were variants,” Bullough said.
He said that when county officials saw unusual trends in very young children, they requested the state health department sequence the virus’s genes, which showed it to be the U.K. variant.
“The U.K. variant appears to be more efficient at infecting young children and, in fact, transmitting between young children,” Bullough said.
The case numbers are relatively low, but are appearing in children aged 3 to 5, which previously hadn’t been a frequent occurrence.
Summit County Epidemiologist Louise Saw said that preschools hadn’t changed their COVID-related safety practices and were surprised to see an increase in transfer between young children.
It is rare that a child has a severe case of COVID-19, but the cases are not all asymptomatic, Bullough said.
In a recent briefing, an Intermountain Healthcare infectious disease expert said that his 2-year-old daughter had been infected with COVID. She had a fever for two days and experienced lingering respiratory symptoms for 10 days.
“This can be not-trivial in children,” said Eddie Stenehjem, Intermountain Healthcare infection diseases physician. He added that it was important for children to play outside as much as possible to reduce the chance of transmission and that, overall, the COVID situation in Utah is in a good place.
Nearly 1 million Utahns have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and nearly 600,000 are fully vaccinated, according to state data.
“I mean, we’re doing great,” Stenehjem said. “… Not out of the woods by any means, but man, we’re in a much better spot now than we were three months ago.”
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