The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is likely beginning to reduce coronavirus transmission in Los Angeles County, said the top public health official there this week, though warned that the county still has a long way to go before herd immunity is achieved.
Daily coronavirus cases in L.A. County have steadily declined since the start of the new year, with the 7-day daily average testing positivity rate now at 1.7%. Meanwhile, as of March 17, some 3.2 million of the 10 million people in the county had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Overall, L.A. County has administered the most doses out of all counties in California, data shows.
Speaking to the data on Monday, L.A. County public health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that the steep declines in coronavirus infections have been reported among nursing home residents and staff and health care workers, who were among the first eligible to receive the vaccine.
"At our skilled nursing facilities, we will not see a surge [as] we saw in April, May and June. The vaccinations are holding there," Ferrer said, according to local news station KTLA. "We have a lot of evidence about how effective they are in that setting already."
"I think this is good news — lots of people vaccinated, much lower rates of transmission," she added.
Still, Ferrer and other county health officials urged caution, noting that the county’s rate of those newly hospitalized due to COVID-19 has slowed on the whole, but is now doing so at an "increasingly slow rate."
"This decrease in the rate of slowing reflects an increasing rate of transmission," officials warned.
"Time will tell what this really means, and we don’t have sufficient information yet to know if this will result in an uptick in infections, but we all need to remain vigilant," said Department of Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly.
Officials expect an extra 280,000 vaccine doses this week to ramp up vaccinations even more and better prevent shortages.
In the meantime, however, "I think the message is that we just need to continue to be careful to remember that the vaccination obviously hasn’t reached the entire Los Angeles County population, that we want people to take advantage of a vaccine as soon as one is available to them, and we’re working to get that out as quickly as possible," Ghaly added.