SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - Though high vaccination rates may be spelling the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in Marin County, the county may never truly see the end of the disease, a public health official told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
Case rates in the county are in the midst of a decline as Marin recovers from its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections. According to county Deputy Public Health Officer Lisa Santora, mask mandates have been effective both by decreasing transmission and encouraging more residents to get vaccinated due to the ongoing seriousness of the pandemic.
While only 68.3 percent of Californians are fully vaccinated, 90.1 percent of Marin County residents over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated, and 96.9 percent have received at least one dose.
Still, Santora said, breakthrough cases reported in individuals with all three types of the vaccine administered in the United States -- Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- indicate that COVID-19's presence in the county is far from over.
Instead, Santora said, the county will begin to switch from a pandemic response to an endemic response. The transition will see COVID-19 responses become more similar to how communities deal with the flu, which was once itself a pandemic, Santora explained. Yearly COVID-19 vaccinations could become as widespread and easily accessible as flu shots and help combat emerging variants.
But before that, Santora said the county would likely go through at least one more wave of COVID-19 infections, likely after Halloween. "We have to be prepared for a fall where the majority of our kids will still not have full immunity," she said. "We are seeing waning immunity among the vaccinated group of our community, so we are seeing breakthrough cases consistently."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now endorses and recommends COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 12 and up, but Santora said the county doesn't anticipate approval for children under the age of 12 until late October.
Still, the county has begun preparations to begin vaccinations in children ages 5 to 11 as early as Oct. 28 if the CDC does approve vaccinations earlier than anticipated, with the goal of at least 75 percent of newly eligible children receiving one dose within the first month of the CDC's recommendation.
Taking aim at the spread of misinformation online, Santora encouraged residents to only seek out information from vetted resources, such as peer-reviewed studies and metanalyses of data.
"A lot of people are reading blogs and information that's available on social networks, but it really is critical to look more fully at the data that's available in our community," she said. "We provide our public health recommendations based on our metanalyses of local, state, and national data, and international data, to support the health and well-being of our community."