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COVID-19 delta variant has more York County residents seeking vaccines

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Nursing student Joanna Aguilar, left, gives a vaccination to Maria Isabel Cruz at a vaccination clinic at the Providence Wellness and Activity Center on Tuesday, July 27, 2021 in Wilmington, California. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

An increasing number of York County residents receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine may indicate they are taking the delta variant more seriously, according to local health officials.

As of Friday, 979 residents per 100,000 people had received their first vaccine dose over the past 14 days, according to state Health Department data. That's a 33% increase over the previous 14-day period, when 734 residents per 100,000 people received their first dose.

“I think it is a delta variant impact that has made it more pressing in the community,” said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the York City Bureau of Health. "A little bit of delta nipping at our heels isn’t what we want, but if it’s leading to more vaccines, that’s a good thing.”

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The recent increase in those receiving their first vaccine dose, which began in mid-July, comes after the numbers had plummeted since mid-April.

Previously, health experts expected vaccine rates to plateau, as those who wanted the vaccine had already been served — and those who oppose the vaccine or are on the fence would still need to be convinced.

Howie said a nationwide campaign among health experts, urging people to get vaccinated to help protect against the delta variant, is resonating, even with those who were skeptical.

Experts have said that those who are fully vaccinated can still spread the disease but are at much lower risk of being hospitalized or dying from it.

In the region that includes Delaware, Washington, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, 72% of samples contained the variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Data at the state and county level were unavailable.

"It is likely that the rise of the delta variant may have influenced some residents who may have been hesitant to get vaccinated in order to do what is best for their communities and keep themselves and others safe," said Pennsylvania Health Department spokesperson Maggi Barton.

However, while the number of people receiving their first dose in York County has increased, the opposite is true for those who have received a dose that counts as being fully vaccinated.

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Continuing a sharp decline since early May, as of Friday, 660 residents per 100,000 people over a 14-day period had received a dose giving them full coverage.

That's a 20% decrease from the previous 14-day period, when 824 residents per 100,000 people had received their final dose.

“We still have a lot of people that are uncertain,” Howie said.

In addition, Howie said, two other factors could contribute to the discrepancy: Either residents believe one dose provides them with enough coverage, or they simply don't want to return for a second dose.

That's why, he said, the health bureau has found that an increasing number of residents are opting for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose.

The percentage of York County residents who are fully vaccinated already falls below the statewide numbers, according to CDC data.

As of Friday, about 48% of people in York County had been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. About 53.5% had received at least one dose.

Statewide, 53% had been fully vaccinated and 66% had received at least one dose.

The state Health Department did not respond to requests for comment.

As of Friday, 61 additional COVID-19 cases had been reported in York County, bringing the total to 47,785 since the outbreak began, the state Health Department reported.

There had been 169,396 residents who had tested negative for COVID-19, about 3.4% of the total 4,949,756 negative test results in the state.

Two new deaths were reported, bringing the county's death toll to 840.

Editor's note: The percentage of individuals who have been vaccinated at the state and county level differ between the state Health Department and the CDC. This is because while the state only counts residents who have been vaccinated in their home county or state, the CDC also includes residents who were vaccinated outside of their county or state of residence. 

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.