Bay Area counties hope expanding vaccine eligibility helps goal of herd immunity

Santa Clara County is poised to become the third in the Bay Area to expand COVID-19 vaccination eligibility. Officials said they’ll take that step on the last day of the month.

Health officials and experts said this is another important step toward reaching herd immunity, while also reducing the risk of COVID infection.

"It’s great news. I’m very excited to see we’re making progress towards expanding access in the broader community," said Dr. Marcelle Dougan, an assistant professor in the San Jose State University Dept. of Public Health & Recreation.

Friday, Contra Costa County became the second in the Bay Area to expand COVID-19 vaccination eligibility. Now, teachers, grocery and agriculture workers, and emergency services workers can get the shots.

Alameda County health officials took this step Feb. 8, and Santa Clara County officials said a similar expansion is effective Feb. 28.

"This expansion will help insure that many of our essential workers, particularly those who are living in communities that are hardest hit, will have access to the vaccine," Dr. Sara Cody, the Santa Clara County health officer, said Wednesday.

Some customers at a popular South Bay supermarket reacted positively to the change.

"I think there are so many people in our community that kept us all going during the pandemic, and I couldn’t be more thankful that the people here and the people in our community are getting vaccinated," said shopper Meghan Piano.

Some experts said this move is forward progress in the push to vaccinate as many people as possible. They believe it also helps stem the spread of the virus, by targeting those who could infect others.

"If they’re coming into contact with so many people, then vaccinating them cuts that risk," said Dr. Dougan.

Some of those in the next tier for vaccination said getting the medicine means an extra level of protection.

"It allows me to have peace of mind to know that I’m safe from anything that could possibly hurt me," said Jordan Joaquin, a Zanotto’s supermarket manager.

Health officials in all of the counties expanding eligibility stressed the shot doesn’t mean invulnerability. They said precautions in place for nearly a year will need to continue until we reach herd immunity, maybe by summer.