From the start of the vaccination effort, a pertinent question has been when we might achieve something amounting to “herd immunity,” i.e. having enough people vaccinated to stomp out the virus. Guesstimates often pegged that number at 70 percent or above. That concept has proven elusive, particularly as the delta variant has rendered the vaccines less effective at preventing the spread — while still extremely effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
But those latter metrics remain hugely important. And in the densely populated areas in which we’ve approached overwhelming adoption of the vaccines, the death rates are often a fraction of the national average — a significantly greater gap than between the most-vaccinated and least-vaccinated states.
The relative rate is similar in two of the handful of other most-vaccinated large counties in the country: Dane County, Wis. (home to Madison), where 86 percent of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated, per the CDC, and San Francisco, where 84 percent are vaccinated. Dane County also has 0.4 deaths daily per 1 million despite being in one of the most hard-hit regions, the Midwest.
There are some larger, highly vaccinated counties with rates that are comparable to the national average. These come particularly in the Denver area — Denver itself (79 percent 12 and over fully vaccinated, 3 deaths per 1 million) and Boulder County (79 percent vaccinated, 2 deaths per 1 million) — and in Minneapolis-based Hennepin County (78 percent vaccinated, 3 deaths per 1 million).
But they also come in slightly less-vaccinated counties than the above and in states that are significantly more hard-hit than the rest of the broader country right now. These counties’ per capita death rates are also still about half or less compared to the rest of their states (more than 6 deaths per million in Colorado and 7 deaths per million in Minnesota).
Correction: The vaccination rate in Santa Clara County was initially misstated as 81 percent. It is, in fact, 89.6 percent of those 12 and over, according to the CDC.