82% of Marin County's eligible population fully vaccinated, yet COVID variant concerns remain

Marin County has emerged as the most COVID-vaccinated county in California, and among the highest in the U.S.    

"Our hope is to show what it looks like to be protected as a community," said Dr. Matt Willis, Public Health Officer, remarking on the 90% of eligible residents who have received at least one dose.

Just under 82% are fully protected.

"I do feel inspired that the community responded together," said Willis, while acknowledging the continuing race against variants.  

"Being at 90% offers us a measure of reassurance that we're ahead in that race, but we're not done yet."

Neighboring Bay Area counties are climbing in the 70 and 80 percent range.  

"The Bay Area in general is one of the safest places you can be right now," reacted Tom McAfee of Fairfax.

"I think it's nothing to mess with, the pandemic is still here and it's going to be here for a while."

That sense of caution and taking COVID-19 seriously, may help explain how Marin hit 90 percent ahead of so many.

Marin also maximized vaccine supplies and removed barriers, bringing shots to multiple locations and underserved communities, making it convenient.

"It was very fast for me to get the shot, even though I was not in a preferred age group," said Fabiola Addamo of Novato. "And I do feel safe."

The challenge now? Closing the narrow gap.

"That's the work of the remaining weeks and months, to get the remaining ten percent vaccinated," said Willis.

Of particular concern, he says, is the highly-contagious Delta variant, which originated in India.

It is spreading in less-vaccinated parts of the U.S. and the world, and the CDC has indicated it expects the Delta to become the dominant strain.

"That variant is hitting the U.K. very hard right now and it's a warning sign to what might happen here," said Brian Black of Ross.

Highly populous California counties and rural counties with low vaccination rates are especially vulnerable.

"It's getting harder and harder to stay ahead of it as the Delta variant makes its way across California," admitted Willis.

The variant has fueled two outbreaks in Marin County: a dozen schoolchildren in one Novato classroom and about 30 cases across Fairfax and San Anselmo.

The incidents were a few weeks apart, everyone recovered and the clusters faded.

"It's a few cases among unvaccinated people and it died off very quickly. It doesn't spread, it doesn't fuel a wider surge across the community," said Willis.

Had more people been unvaccinated, such a surge might have happened, as they did when hospitals were overwhelmed before vaccines rolled out.

Looking back, Willis believes communicable disease has taught people how dependent we are on each other for our collective well-being.

"What I'm feeling most is gratitude for our community for trusting the science and staying together in this."

Going forward, with mass vaccination sites closed, shots will remain available via mobile clinics, pharmacies, and in doctor's officers, where personal physicians may be able to assuage doubts about vaccine benefits.