Sofia Laurel Pirri, SMDP Intern

Covid infections in Los Angeles County are increasingly contained to unvaccinated individuals and officials are concerned a more dangerous variant could spread if vaccination rates continue to decline.

Delta variants, formerly known as Indian variants, played a huge role in India’s catastrophic outbreaks as well as recent spikes in the UK. The Delta variants first began infecting Los Angeles residents in the beginning of April and since then, there have been 64 known cases of Delta variant infection in LA County.

“We’re especially concerned about this variant because it appears to be highly transmissible,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “By that we mean it’s more contagious, even than other highly contagious COVID variants. It’s also thought that this variant may cause more severe infections.”

Ferrer emphasized that vaccinations are the best form of protection against the variant but warned that those with only one shot of the vaccine are not nearly as well protected. For them, protection hovers around 30-35 percent.

Officials are watching out for any increase in infection and hospitalization rates among vaccinated individuals. According to Ferrer, “An increase in hospitalizations or deaths amongst fully vaccinated people would be one of the earliest signals that a more lethal variant, not prevented by available vaccines, is in circulation.”

Currently, these rates are low, with only 0.4 percent of vaccinated individuals in LA County testing positive for the virus and 0.003 percent hospitalized.

Completely unvaccinated people have zero protection against the dangerous variant.

“I would note that much of the transmission of this variant appears to be occurring within households,” Ferrer pointed out. “34 of the 64 cases live in a household with one or more other Delta variant cases. Nonetheless, it’s concerning to see this increase, as it is concerning to see these increases across the country.”

Vaccination continues to increase, albeit more slowly, with more and more children getting vaccinated in recent weeks. As of June 13, almost one third of 12-15 year olds and nearly half of 16-17 year olds have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

According to Ferrer, 56 percent of residents 16 and above are fully vaccinated, and 66 percent have received their first dose. Rates are much higher for the population 65 and over, with 74 percent fully vaccinated and 86 percent having received one dose.

However, the rate of Los Angeles residents receiving their first dose is steadily decreasing. “Now that we’ve reopened and safety modifications have been lifted in many settings, it is particularly concerning to see vaccination momentum flagging,” said Ferrer.

The slightly over 62,000 vaccinations administered last week is a far cry from the county’s target of 100,000.

Ferrer also notes that the gaps in infection rates seen among racial groups persist in vaccination rates as well. As of June 13, 64 percent of the county’s white population had received one dose and 74 percent of the Asian population. However, for the Latino population that number was 51 percent and for the Black population, 43 percent.

The County is incentivizing vaccination by implementing sweepstakes in partnership with the Staples Center and Universal Studios.

From this Friday June 18 to next Thursday June 24, adults 18 and over receiving their first dose of the vaccine at a county run vaccination site, LA City site, or St. John’s Well Child and Family Center sites will have the opportunity to win one a prize. 217 people will receive packages to see the value ladder at the Staples Center this November and 20 people will win a VIP experience at Universal Studios in Hollywood. More information and official rules can be found on the Los Angeles County Vaccination Sweepstakes page online.