Youth vaccinated
Noelani Reynoso, 15, shows where she was vaccinated against COVID-19. Image from LA County Health video

Orange County saw modest increases in vaccinations and booster shots since last week, according to data released Wednesday by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The number of vaccines administered in Orange County increased from 2,326,588 to 2,328,630, according to Wednesday’s data. That number includes an increase from 2,187,900 to 2,189,959 residents who have received the two-dose regimen of vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna. The county has also logged 200,336 residents who received one of two shots of Pfizer or Moderna.

Dr. Jose Mayorga, executive director of the UC Irvine Family Health Center, told City News Service that a National Cancer Institute study published Tuesday showed that COVID-19 is the leading cause of death among Americans ages 45 to 54.

“It’s very astounding,” Mayorga said. “But when you see that and then actually look at what the study also shows — a decrease in the ranking for those 85 and older. So we know by the correlation that those age groups have different variations in vaccination rates. It’s screaming at us that vaccines are protecting everyone, especially our most frail.”

Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, has also encouraged anyone eligible for a booster shot to schedule one.

“I think everyone eligible for a third shot should have the third shot by now,” Noymer said.

Authorities are expected to approve a booster designed to combat the Omicron variant soon, but anyone eligible for a booster now shouldn’t wait as they can also get the Omicron-variant dose later as well, Noymer said.

“I really want people to appreciate the value of getting up to date on vaccination,” Mayorga said. “Getting an additional one or two boosters has a huge impact. It will help reduce hospitalization and death rates if you’re up to date.”

For those who have avoided getting a booster shot because of side effects from the vaccines, Mayorga said, “A simple side effect is a lot better than dealing with hospitalization or loss of a loved one.”

The number of residents receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine decreased from 138,688 to 138,671 as officials continue to adjust to a new accounting of shots administered in the counties across California.

Booster shots increased from 1,335,414 to 1,340,385.

In the age group of 5 to 11 years old, the number of children vaccinated increased from 92,483 to 92,842 versus 175,738 who have not been vaccinated.

The NCI study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the country from March 2020, when the pandemic began, to October 2021.

Heart disease was the top cause of death during that period with cancer in the second slot. In all age groups 15 and older, COVID-19 was a top-five killer during that period.

In an analysis of fatalities comparing March through December of 2020 and January through October 2021 the scientists found that COVID-19 went from a fourth leading cause of death among in the 45-54 age group to top cause of death in 2021. For those 85 and older, the virus went from the second leading cause of death in 2020 to third last year because seniors have been more widely vaccinated.

Mayorga said his clinic continues to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated.

“I think what we try to do is have one-on-one conversations with parents about what are the ramifications of not getting vaccines,” Mayorga said.

For instance, if a child gets sick it will mean an adult in the family will have to stay home from work to care for the child and then that caregiver could also get infected, leading to more time away from the job, Mayorga said.

“And, potentially, there is a concern of them getting ill and ending up in a hospital,” Mayorga said. “And then there’s also the longterm impacts of COVID that can impact these children, too.”

Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 jumped from 227 as of Friday to 249 as of Monday, and from 30 to 34 in intensive care units, according to data released Wednesday.

Officials cannot determine how many of the patients currently hospitalized were admitted directly for COVID-19 or tested positive while being treated for another ailment.

But from June 1 to June 22, there have been 100 unvaccinated patients admitted directly for COVID-19, while 22 were vaccinated, according to the agency.

According to the county, 83.3% of the patients are unvaccinated and 87% of ICU patients are unvaccinated.

The county has 28% of its ICU beds available, above the 20% level when officials become concerned.

The county’s testing positivity rate increased from 15.8% as of Thursday to 16.4% Wednesday, and ticked up from 15.7% to 16.4% in the health equity quartile, which measures the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

The county’s daily case rate per 100,000 people is 32.1 on a seven-day average with a seven-day lag, and 31.5 for the adjusted rate, also with a seven-day average and seven-day lag.

Noymer told City News Service on Tuesday the trend is not encouraging.

“We’re still not moving in the right direction,” Noymer said. “Things are getting worse.”

He noted, however, that the level of hospitalizations is still less than the Delta variant-fueled surge last summer.

“We still need to keep things in perspective. We’ve seen much worse,” he said. “But I think it’s going to get worse. But my biggest concern remains next winter. It’s the winters that give us the big walloping.”

Last year, the Fourth of July did not fuel a surge, but this year may be different, Noymer said.

“This July, I wouldn’t rule it out because we’re dealing with such a more transmissible variant now,” Noymer said.

The rise in infections is “pretty substantial,” Noymer said.

“There’s a lot of COVID out there, but the fact we haven’t seen a substantial mortality is a good sign that things are working.”

The county logged 2,662 more infections Friday through Monday, raising the cumulative case count to 606,717. The county did not report any more fatalities, keeping the death toll at 7,126.

The OCHCA provides regular COVID updates on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The case rate per 100,000 people for fully vaccinated residents who have received a vaccine booster decreased from 35.8 June 19 to 30.1 June 26, the latest data available show. The case rate for residents fully vaccinated with no booster went from 21.5 on June 19 to 17.9 on June 26, and from 34.7 on June 19 to 30.1 on June 26.

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