Last week, more than 22,000 children 5 to 11 in Orange County got their first shots of COVID-19 vaccine as they became eligible for inoculations for the first time during the pandemic, the county’s deputy health officer told reporters.
Between Nov. 8 and 15, 22,427 children in the newly eligible ages of 5 to 11 received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the deputy health officer.
“There was a good showing of kids getting vaccinated last week,” Chinsio-Kwong said Friday. “So, great news.”
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 dropped from 208 Thursday to 194 on Friday, with the number of intensive care unit patients dropping from 49 to 47.
The county had 20.2% of its intensive care unit beds available and 68% of its ventilators.
The county also reported 328 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, raising the cumulative number to 310,297. The county’s overall death toll rose by two to 5,61.
Orange County’s averages for infections have remained about the same as last week, according to the latest weekly data released Tuesday by the OCHCA.
The county’s weekly COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 residents remained at 7.3, the same as last Tuesday, while the test-positivity rate stayed at 2.8%.
The county’s Health Equity Quartile positivity rate — which measures progress in low-income communities — inched down from 3% to 2.9%.
The two fatalities logged Friday happened this month, hiking the death toll for November to nine. All of those who died were unvaccinated, Chinsio-Kwong said.
October’s death toll stands at 84.
The death toll for September remains at 172, just behind August’s death toll of 174.
In contrast, the death toll before the more contagious Delta variant-fueled summer surge was 30 in July, 19 for June, 26 for May, 46 for April, 200 for March, 615 for February, 1,589 for January — the deadliest month of the pandemic — and 980 for December, the next-deadliest.
Chinsio-Kwong warned residents of a looming winter wave, spurred by holiday gatherings. She pointed to rising levels of infection in European countries such as the U.K., Germany and Austria, where the vaccination rates are higher than in the U.S.
“It should be a warning to everyone in the United States that they should protect themselves,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “This is not the time to be less careful. If anything, we have to be more careful.”
The doctor encouraged residents to get vaccinated.
“Vaccines are effective and they do reduce hospitalizations and death,” she said, pointing to the most recent study in the Pacific Northwest.
For the unvaccinated, death occurred seven more times than for the inoculated, she said. The infection rate was three times higher, she added.
For parents uneasy about the timing of vaccine mandates for students, Chinsio-Kwong said they won’t be required until the shots are fully approved instead of the emergency use authorizations they have for kids younger than 16. That isn’t likely to happen until at least the summer of next year, so they would not be required until the 2022-23 school year at the earliest, she said.
“So parents do have time to have that critical discussion with their pediatrician or primary care provider,” Chinsio-Kwong said.
The doctor advised residents be careful when gathering for Thanksgiving. It is best to have any get-togethers outdoors, but if they have to be indoors then the windows and doors should be opened to provide more ventilation, and getting vaccinated and using face coverings is advised, she said.
The county’s case rate per 100,000 for the fully vaccinated was at 3.2 as of Nov. 13, down from 3.6 on Nov. 6, according to the latest data available. The case rate for the unvaccinated was at 16.3, down from 18.2 during the same time period.
The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County increased from 2,200,493 as of last Wednesday to 2,217,711 as of Thursday.
That number includes an increase from 2,053,496 to 2,069,649 of residents, who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. The number of residents receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine increased from 146,997 to 148,062.
There are 208,775 residents who have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Chinsio-Kwong said as of Nov. 15 a total of 378,566 booster shots have been administered in Orange County and of these 110,960 were given to ages 65 to 74, 61,682 to 75 to 84, and 20,452 to 85 and older, she said.
The top dispensers of COVID-19 vaccines as of Nov. 15, the latest figures available, are:
— The OCHCA, 25.4%;
— CVS, 18.9%;
— Walgreens, 6.3%;
— Kaiser Permanente, 5.2%;
— UCI Health, 2.7% and;
— Walmart, 2%.
— Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, 1.4%
— Families Together of Orange County nonprofit, 1%;
— Kaiser Permanente Tustin Ranch, 1%.
As of Monday, 69% of the total population had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, and 64% were fully vaccinated, according to Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s deputy health officer.