COVID vaccinations

Licensed Vocational Nurse, Susan Figueroa, of Tuolumne County Behavioral Health Department, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination to her co-worker Tabitha Hooter, of Sonora.

Tuolumne County added 42 more new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, which included 13 newly infected children, as officials emphasized the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines to those who remained hesitant.

The new cases on Friday included nine boys and four girls younger than 18; five men and two women between 18 and 29; five men and three women in their 30s; two women and one man in their 50s; six men and two women in their 60s; two women in their 70s; and one man in his 80s.

There were 148 active cases and six COVID-positive individuals hospitalized in the county on Friday. 

None of Friday’s reported cases were prisoners at Sierra Conservation Center outside of Jamestown, where an ongoing outbreak has infected 60 inmates over the past two weeks.

Five of the new cases on Friday were people who had been vaccinated.

The county’s average daily case rate climbed to 32.9 over the previous 14 days, up from 28.2 on Thursday and 0.5 when California lifted most COVID-related restrictions on June 15.

Cases have also been rising throughout the state and country in recent weeks as the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19 spreads like wildfire and is now attributed for the vast majority of new infections.

An internal report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was widely disseminated on Friday called the delta variant as infectious as chickenpox and could be equally transmissible by vaccinated people as those who are unvaccinated. 

Although more vaccinated people have been getting infected by this latest wave, interim Tuolumne County Health Officer Dr. Eric Sergienko noted during a weekly press briefing on Friday that they are only a fraction of the new cases.

Sergienko said the statewide case rate among vaccinated people was three per 100,000 per day, while the same for unvaccinated people was 21 per 100,000.

“That’s seven times more cases in the unvaccinated population, so that speaks to the risk reduction associated with vaccination,” he said, adding that the reduced risk of hospitalization and death is an “order of magnitude greater” among those who are vaccinated.

The greater rate at which unvaccinated cases are outpacing vaccinated cases is also considering that only about half the total population is fully vaccinated

About 43% of Tuolumne County’s total population was fully vaccinated as of Thursday, while the statewide share was nearly 53%. The nationwide share was about 49.5%.

Sergienko also addressed the safety of the vaccines and called them a safer, more effective way at gaining immunity than through natural infection, including 

“This is probably the most monitored vaccine rollout in the history of the United States, where there are multiple avenues to report concerns,” he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, that logs any reports of complications or deaths after someone gets vaccinated. 

Just because a complication or death gets reported to VAERS does not necessarily mean it was caused by the vaccine, the CDC emphasized.  

Doctors from the Food and Drug Administration and CDC review available clinical information, such as medical records, autopsy reports and death certificates, to determine whether the vaccine was the cause of the reported complication or death following vaccination.

There have been 6,340 reports of death to VAERS out of more than 342 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered from Dec. 14 through last Sunday, a rate of 0.00019%, though the CDC says deeper review has not established a causal link to the vaccines.

Reports of other serious complications have been equally rare, and in some cases rarer, according to the CDC website.

Far more deaths and other health complications have been confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19. For example, there have been 73 coronavirus deaths in Tuolumne County out of 3,011 total community cases since the pandemic started early last year, a rate of 2.4%.

County Supervisor Ryan Campbell, who represents District 2, said during Friday’s weekly press briefing that unvaccinated people were largely driving the latest wave of infections locally and beyond.

Campbell said he felt too much emphasis lately has been placed on the vaccinated “breakthrough” cases despite them representing only a small portion of the total.

“Just to be clear, this outbreak is being driven by unvaccinated people,” he said. “The number of breakthrough cases is significantly lower than the number of cases that are being spread through unvaccinated individuals.

“I just see that as the latest misinformation that’s going out there in the public, is about the breakthrough cases and their significance.”

Campbell said another concern is that the longer the virus continues to spread, the greater the chance for it mutating into a strain that’s more resistant to the currently available vaccines. 

Studies have shown the vaccines to be as much as 88% effective at preventing infection from the delta variant and 96% effective at preventing serious illness or death in “breakthrough” cases.

Data from the CDC showed 43.1% of Tuolumne County’s total population and 39.1% of Calaveras County’s was fully vaccinated as of Friday. The county data includes children under 12 who are currently not eligible for vaccination.

The goal is to get at least 70% of the population fully vaccinated. About 52% of the total population statewide and 49% nationwide was fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to CDC data.

Testing

When you should get tested: Five days after travel or close contact with others outside of your household; as soon as possible if experiencing symptoms; and/or every 14 to 28 days if regularly working with the public.

Testing is available from:

• Local health care providers;

• Adventist Health Sonora, call first: (209) 536-5166;

• Rite Aid at 855 Mono Way, Sonora: www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/services/covid-19-testing

• Tuolumne Veterans Memorial Hall, 18375 Fir Avenue — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Appointments are recommended and can be scheduled at www.lhi.care/covidtesting or by calling (888) 634-1123.

Vaccinations

• Book a vaccine appointment at https://myturn.ca.gov or call (833) 422-4255.

• CVS and Rite Aid stores in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties: Sign up at https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine or www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/covid-qualifier

• Adventist Health Sonora: Find out more information by going to www.adventisthealthsonora.org/covidvaccine or call (209) 536-5165.

• The Safeway pharmacy: Register at mhealthsystem.com/3127tuolumne or call (209) 533-7812.

• The Save Mart pharmacy: Register at https://savemartluckysched.rxtouch.com/smsched/program/covid19/Patient/Advisory or call (209) 536-1118 for Sonora store.

• Twain Harte Pharmacy: Call (209) 586-3225 for information and appointments.

• Groveland Pharmacy: Call (209) 962-5211 for information and appointments.

• Information on VA Clinic vaccinations: https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine