Story at a glance

  • San Francisco might be the first major U.S. city to have achieved the elusive target of herd immunity from COVID-19.
  • George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco told The Guardian that the low case count — nearly 14 per day — without a surge is part of what “herd immunity looks like.”
  • Data from the San Francisco Health Department shows that 71 percent of all city residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

San Francisco could be the first major US city to achieve the elusive target of herd immunity from COVID-19. 

Experts say despite a low number of new daily cases, reporting does not indicate the cases are gaining traction that could lead to a wider outbreak, The Guardian reported

George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) told The Guardian that the low case count — nearly 14 per day  without a surge is part of what “herd immunity looks like.” 

“You’re going to have single cases, but they’re not going to propagate out,” Rutherford said. 

Rutherford told the outlet the city’s composition might have contributed to the high rate of vaccination, as much of its population was eligible for vaccinations early. Likewise, the San Francisco density might have enabled a more robust vaccination campaign, according to Rutherford.


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There has yet to be a consensus among health officials on what percentage of a population’s immunity equals the status of “herd immunity.” Expert predictions have ranged anywhere from 60 to 70 percent to between 80 and 90 percent with the rise in variants. 

Data from the San Francisco Health Department shows that 71 percent of all city residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, 62 percent of all eligible age groups are fully vaccinated. 

Peter Chin-Hong, an associate dean at UCSF who specializes in infectious diseases, told The Guardian the city’s vaccination rate combined with antibody responses from those previously infected means the city could have achieved herd immunity. 

“I’m hoping that people will still go out and get vaccinated and not rest on their laurels,” he said. “The virus will always be something we need to think about.”

“San Francisco has this long history of being open-minded and integrating academics and public health with its community and politics,” he said. “Northern California has been very pro-vaccine, and mask wearing has been popular here as well.”


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California plans to reopen the state on Tuesday, with nearly 58 percent of its population receiving at least one shot, data from the Los Angeles Times shows. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that slightly more than 42 percent of all eligible people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated. 


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Published on Jun 09, 2021