Washington County this week just reached the 80% threshold for getting shots in arms for its adult residents, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority.
Washington County is not only the first county in Oregon to reach the 80% mark, it has also led the charge with the Beaver State's highest vaccination rates for the past four months, said county spokesperson Mary Sawyers.
Hood River County is just behind in second place, with a 79.6% vaccination rate as of Thursday, Sept. 9. Multnomah County is in third place, with its vaccination rate at 79%.
These figures refer to folks who have received at least one vaccine dose and does not represent those who are fully vaccinated.
Sawyers attributes Washington County's high vaccination rates in part to the county's focus on vaccinating harder-to-reach communities, including migrant farmworkers and unsheltered people.
Early on in the pandemic, Washington County officials realized that more than half of COVID-19 cases were being detected among Hispanic or Latino residents, even though just 17% of county residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
By the end of 2020, the first COVID-19 vaccines had been authorized for mass deployment and shipped to Oregon. After that, Washington County officials sketched out a plan to vaccinate a broad cross-section of Washington County's population — the second-largest of any county in Oregon, behind neighboring Multnomah County.
As public health authorities identified "vaccination gaps" emerging between demographic groups this year, the county teamed up with employers and community organizations to try to close them.
"From the beginning of the pandemic, we have focused on vaccinating communities of color and other groups that may have barriers to getting vaccinated," Sawyers said. "This included at our stationary clinics and now at our mobile clinics that take the vaccine to where people work, shop and live."
Sawyers said the county's partnership with the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center — which has locations in Beaverton, Cornelius and Hillsboro, as well as in neighboring Yamhill County — also helped get thousands of shots in arms through vaccination events.
You can find out when and where the next free vaccination event will take place by visiting virginiagarcia.org.
Washington County is ahead of most other counties in vaccination rates for most racial and ethnic minorities, according to OHA data. But even with the county's efforts to close those vaccination gaps, there is still quite a bit of work ahead, Sawyers acknowledged. Vaccination rates hover at 56.6% for Black residents and 58.2% for Latino residents in Washington County, well below the countywide rate of 80%.
Still, those figures surpass the statewide vaccination rates for these populations, with 54.4% of Black Oregonians and 52.2% of Latino Oregonians over 18 having received at least one COVID-19 dose, according to the OHA.
The 80% vaccination threshold is considered by many public health experts to be the minimum requirement to reach herd immunity. But in August, the Infectious Diseases Society of America bumped the threshold for herd immunity to well over 80%, potentially approaching 90%, due to the delta variant.
Experts say the delta strain, which was first detected in India late last year and has spread around the world, is much more contagious and can even be transmitted by people who are vaccinated and asymptomatic.
Although no vaccine offers perfect protection, the three COVID-19 vaccines being used in the United States have been found to be highly effective at preventing serious symptoms and complications of COVID-19, even against the delta variant of the coronavirus.
Washington County's mobile vaccine team continues to travel to neighborhoods throughout the county to meet people where they live. Since their launch last year, the clinics have given out more than 1300 vaccinations.
To find out when the team is coming to your neighborhood, visit the "vaccine information" tab on the county's website and click on find schedule here.
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