Orange County’s Herd Immunity Goal in Question

By Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
June 25, 2021 Updated: June 27, 2021

Health officials in Orange County, California, say they’re optimistic that 70 percent of eligible residents will be inoculated against COVID-19 by Independence Day.

However, it’s unclear whether the county will accomplish its July 4 herd immunity goal.

“There’s a lot of talk as to [whether] herd immunity is even possible at this time due to all the variants that are occurring,” Orange County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong told The Epoch Times.

“Even if we reach herd immunity as a country, there’s still other countries out there where COVID continues to be transmitted. What if it continues to mutate? The worst-case scenario is if it mutates to the level that the vaccine is no longer [effective and] we’re back at square one. This is the problem that we have right now, and this is why there’s such a rush across the globe to try to get people vaccinated … and diminish mutation of the virus.”

About 68 percent of Orange County residents aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination as of June 20. The county is about 60,000 people shy of reaching a 70 percent vaccination rate among its eligible population.

Chinsio-Kwong said that if the vaccination numbers continue as they have been in the past week, reaching a 70 percent vaccination rate by July 4 will be feasible. However, it’s unclear whether that will bring the county to herd immunity.

“Herd immunity is just the concept of trying to eyeball what portion of the population needs to at least have some sort of immunity to prevent continued spread,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “With all the variants on the horizon, that number may actually increase if you want to protect the masses.”

She said the herd immunity goal might increase to 85 to 90 percent as variants, such as the Delta variant, continue to spread.

“This variant is more highly transmissible than other variants that we’ve seen to date,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “There’s still a question on the severity of illnesses that it can cause.”

With the increase of COVID-19 cases as a result of the Delta variant being reported in Los Angeles County, Chinsio-Kwong said it is only a matter of time before Orange County observes a similar rise.

Orange County Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau said the Delta variant accounts for 14 percent of all new cases in the country, and it’s predicted that in the upcoming weeks, it will be the predominant variant.

Studies have shown that those fully vaccinated are at least 80 percent protected from the Delta variant.

As a result of the high vaccination rates, Chinsio-Kwong said she doesn’t foresee a COVID-19 surge similar to the one experienced in December and January repeating.

“There is still so much to learn about how effective these vaccines are and how long immunity will last,” she said. “We don’t have to be as careful as we were before, but we still have to be careful.”

To bolster its inoculation efforts, Orange County is now offering on-site and homebound COVID-19 vaccinations.

Through the county Othena app, individuals, businesses, and groups can request mobile onsite vaccination services.

Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna