The nurse depicted in this 2006 photograph, was in the process of administering an intramuscular vaccination in the left shoulder muscle of a young girl. Photo by James Gathany, courtesy CDC/ Judy Schmidt.

Orange County saw modest gains in COVID-19 vaccinations this week as hospitalizations continue at levels not seen since the first week of July, according to data released Wednesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Hospitalizations associated with the virus declined from 70 Monday to 67 on Tuesday, with the number of intensive are unit patients dropping from 14 to 11.

Of those hospitalized with the virus, 84% are unvaccinated while 86% of those in intensive care are unvaccinated, according to the OCHCA.

The case rate per 100,000 people remained at 3.5 with the positivity rates also staying at 1.9% overall and in the health equity quartile, which reflects those in needy communities hardest hit by the virus, according to the OCHCA.

The case rate per 100,000 people for fully vaccinated residents who received a booster shot increased from 3.2 on March 19 to 3.8 on March 26, according to data released Thursday.

For those fully vaccinated without a booster shot the rate went from 2.5 to 2.8. And for those not fully vaccinated the rate went from 4.2 to 4.1.

About 4,000 more people received vaccines since last week, according to OCHCA.

There were 236 new infections diagnosed, raising the cumulative to 547,793 since the pandemic began. Nine more fatalities were logged, increasing the cumulative to 6,910, with the deaths spread out over the past several months with one dating back to August.

Two of the fatalities occurred in March, upping last month’s death toll to 45. Two happened in February, increasing its death toll to 307.

Two others happened in January, increasing its death toll to 544, and two in November, raising its death toll to 118. One was in October, increasing its death toll to 138. One fatality logged Wednesday occurred in August, increasing its death toll to 188.

With neighboring Los Angeles County reporting a rise in cases attributed to the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant of the virus, Orange County’s chief health officer encouraged residents to get vaccinated.

“If they (Los Angeles County) start seeing cases rise there might be a possibility we see a rise as well,” Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong said at a news conference Tuesday.

The number of fully vaccinated residents in Orange County rose from 2,448,788 last week to 2,452,863 this week, according to data released Wednesday.

That number includes an increase from 2,292,327 to 2,296,678 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 stands at 156,185.

Booster shots increased from 1,234,473 last week to 1,244,133 this week.

In the most recently eligible age group of 5 to 11 years old, the number of children vaccinated increased from 86,022 to 86,893, versus 181,687, who have not been vaccinated. It’s the least vaccinated age group in Orange County.

Chinsio-Kwong said 37% of children 5 to 11 have gotten at least one dose and 32% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-17 age group, 72% have gotten at least one dose and 66.7% are fully vaccinated. Among those 65 and older, 99% have gotten at least one dose and 92.6% are fully vaccinated.

“We still need a lot of help to get younger children vaccinated,” Chinsio-Kwong said. “We encourage parents to talk to their pediatrician and healthcare providers to consider vaccination.”

Chinsio-Kwong said that while children are at lower risk of contracting severe illness many are not wearing masks at school anymore and are “engaging in high-risk activities.”

Even though the federal government will no longer provide free tests and vaccines, the county will continue to do so at its sites for the time being, Chinsio-Kwong said.

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