Behavior: The habits of unvaccinated individuals differs from vaccinated. Courtesy image

Unvaccinated people are more likely to engage in risky behaviors that can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 according to data presented by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health this week.

Unvaccinated individuals were more likely to visit a bar/club, go to someone else’s home, attend a gathering with more than 10 people or use mass transit.

The data is from a cohort study that’s conducted by the University of Southern California in collaboration with the Department of Public Health, and it follows over time a group of about 1,200 adult residents that are demographically and socioeconomically representative of residents across the county. About 90% of this group is fully vaccinated.

Over a month spanning June to July of this year, members of the cohort were asked whether over the past week, they had engaged in a variety of activities or behaviors that increase and or reduce transmission risk. Their answers were presented as part of Public Health’s regular briefing and officials said a higher portion of unvaccinated people engaged in activities that increased transmission risk, including going out to bars/clubs (42 vs. 37 percent), going to other people’s residences (70 vs. 62 percent), attending large gatherings (43 vs. 36 percent) and taking mass transit (18 vs. 10 percent).

The study found a higher proportion of vaccinated people engaged in activities that reduce transmission risk, including following government rules to limit contact with others, wearing a face mask and in the presence of other people remaining at home as much as possible, avoiding large gatherings of more than 50 people, not shaking hands and generally avoiding touching people as much as possible.

“Although none of these activities were restricted during the period over which these behaviors were assessed, and the number of survey participants as I noted, is relatively small, it is concerning to see trends suggesting that in this cohort, those who were unvaccinated were engaging in activities that could easily lead to more exposures,” said Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

During a Thursday briefing, Ferrer reiterated the effectiveness of vaccines saying vaccinated people were less likely to have any symptoms and when they did become symptomatic, vaccinated individuals were significantly less likely to experience serious disease, hospitalization or death.

“The evidence continues to show that vaccines provide the most excellent protection against the severe outcomes from infection, and that the same sensible precautions that protected us from earlier strains of COVID are still very effective against this latest strain,” she said. “We’re fortunate that we have the tools in hand that we need to get back to slowing the spread of Delta, we’ll just need to accept that as the virus changes we need to be flexible in our responses to reflect the changing science.”

Ferrer said institutions like schools were continuing to adapt to the needs of the moment and said parents should be confident in the safety of their children returning to campuses around the county. She said children, in general, are much less likely to become infected and when they do contract the disease, it is less serious.

She said the combination of protections currently in place, including masks, vaccines and distancing also provided additional safety.

“Wherever you have that extra protection that’s coming from vaccinations, you’ve added a layer we never had before,” she said. “So couple that with the masking requirements, with distancing and infection control, as appropriate, I think parents can feel reassured that schools are creating as safe an environment as possible. Is it risk-free, absolutely not. I believe we’ve heard for months now about the risks of not having children be able to return to school as well. I think in this case, there are a lot of safety measures are in place. The parents should feel reassured that case rates are still very low for children, serious illnesses still remains relatively rare and if we all are doing our part, we’re hopeful that schools are going to have a lot of safety and without a lot of increased risk.”

editor@smdp.com