Find out how vaccination rates compare to COVID cases for Oregon’s 36 counties
Federal, state and local leaders have been saying for months that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is key to slowing the spread of the coronavirus and possibly limiting the pandemic.
New data from Oregon shows vaccinations do more than make a difference.
Infections are on the rise across the board amid a devastating summer wave. But counties in Oregon with some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates also have some of the highest recent coronavirus case rates, according to an analysis by The Oregonian / OregonLive.
The findings appear to bolster the near-universal scientific consensus that the three coronavirus vaccines approved in the United States are effective, even against the highly contagious delta variant which could cause more severe disease than the other strains.
For each of Oregon’s 36 counties, the newsroom calculated rates of COVID-19 infection cases during the week ending Monday and compared them to vaccination rates for the population of each county in 18 years and over since inoculations became available. The scan captured what was then the worst week in Oregon’s summer wave, with widespread spread and more new confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections than at any time since January.
Fifteen counties representing 3.1 million Oregonians had adult vaccination rates above 60%. Ten of them had weekly case rates below 14 per 10,000, the case rate for Oregon as a whole.
Meanwhile, 16 counties with lower vaccination rates had weekly case rates above 14 per 10,000, including three with three times the rates.
Umatilla County is a particularly striking example, with 44% of the adult population vaccinated, the second lowest of all major counties. It had a case rate of 61 per 10,000 people, the highest of any major county.
That’s nearly seven times more cases per capita than the highly vaccinated Multnomah County for the week.
Or take Jackson County. The county is part of a southern Oregon hospital region that has seen COVID-19 hospitalizations reach unreached levels during the pandemic, where COVID-19 hospitalizations per capita are five times higher than in the region covering the Portland metropolis.
Jackson County recorded 29 cases per capita for the week, nearly five times more than Washington County, which has the highest vaccination rate in the state.
The Oregon Health Authority said case rates were generally higher in counties with lower vaccination rates.
Douglas County is another example of relatively high case rates, with 31 infections per 10,000 population and low vaccination rates, at 47% of the adult population. For the county health worker, Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, low vaccination rates are of particular concern due to the contagiousness of the delta variant.
“With the low vaccination rates, there are many targets for this virus,” Dannenhoffer said. “And that’s why people need to get vaccinated.”
But Dannenhoffer sounded an optimistic note, pointing to a recent increase in vaccinations which he said may have been triggered by the rise in infections and “opinion leaders” such as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who supported vaccines.
Graham, a Republican and former ally of President Trump at the time, tested positive despite his vaccination. But Graham said he likely would have had a more serious case of the coronavirus if he hadn’t received the vaccines, and was “very happy” to have been vaccinated.
However, not all of Oregon’s counties fit the pattern of low vaccination rates and high case rates, with four counties with vaccination rates below 50% recording less than 10 weekly cases per 10,000 people. Lake, Klamath, Malheur and Grant counties have a total population of 112,400, and a handful of cases can cause rates to vary dramatically.
“Vaccination is our best defense against the Delta,” Governor Kate Brown said this week when announcing a mandate for healthcare workers to get vaccinated or tested every week. “Serious illness from COVID-19 is now largely preventable. “
– Fedor Zarkhin
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