The Bay Area is ahead of the country on vaccines. These factors may explain why

If you walked through San Francisco today, you would likely come across more fully vaccinated people than partially and unvaccinated people combined.

54% of San Franciscans were fully immunized as of May 18. This is much more than the overall American rate of 38%. It’s also higher than all but three U.S. counties of 250,000 or more – Cumberland County in Maine, Dane County in Wisconsin, and neighboring Marin County, which tops the list at 60%. .

It’s not just San Francisco and Marin, however; most of the Bay Area vaccinates residents at unusually high rates. Of the region’s eight counties with more than 250,000 residents, seven are among the top 25 counties in the United States. Napa County, which has fewer than 250,000, also has a vaccination far above the national average. (Vaccination data is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To find out what leads to such high rates in the Bay Area, the Chronicle analyzed the correlation between county vaccination rates and several other demographic parameters, including education levels, poverty rates, rates of uninsured residents and the share of black, Hispanic and Asian residents. . Basically, we wanted to know which metric best predicts a county’s vaccination rates in addition to the vaccination rate itself. The analysis excluded counties with less than 250,000 inhabitants, as well as six states with incomplete data: Georgia, West Virginia, Virginia, Texas, Colorado and Vermont.

We found that, by far, a county’s vaccination rate was the most strongly correlated with the percentage of its adult residents with a college degree. Knowing the proportion of people with a university degree explains about half of the difference between counties in vaccination rates. For every 1% increase in the rate of university-educated adults in a county, there is an almost 0.5% greater proportion of fully immunized people.

This relationship could help explain San Francisco’s high vaccination rate: 58% of its residents aged 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree, making it the tenth most populous county in the country. Marin County is 6th; Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara all make the top 40.

The relationship between education and vaccination rates makes sense, according to Bela Matyas, Solano County health officer. “Higher levels of education… certainly correlate with all aspects leading to better health,” he said. He noted that people who voted for Biden in the last election tend to be more willing to get the shot – and they are also more likely to have college degrees.

Matyas added that higher education levels can help individuals “navigate the confusing waters of information” about the vaccine – especially disinformation online, like Bill Gates rumors and microchips. “Lots of stories on social media… deter people from getting vaccinated,” he said.

Solano County has the lowest vaccination rate of any county in the Bay Area. Only 35% of its inhabitants are fully vaccinated. It also has the lowest percentage of adults with a college education in the region, at just 27% of residents 25 or older.

Another particularly strong correlation is the share of counties of uninsured residents. This relationship was even stronger than the correlation between vaccination and poverty rates. A 1% higher proportion of uninsured residents in a county was associated with a 1% decrease in its vaccination rate.

In a recent New York Times survey, 9% of those polled raised concerns about vaccines costing too much or taking too long, despite the vaccines being free. The report recommended that public health officials spend more time emphasizing that vaccines cost nothing and locate vaccination centers in places frequented by people, such as restaurants and religious places.

This is exactly what the Latino Task Force, which works to immunize the Latin American population of San Francisco, is doing. Now that most of the vaccine-hungry residents have received their shots, LTF coordinator Valerie Tulier-Laiwa said the task force was focusing on those most hesitant in two main ways: one, by passing the word that vaccines are free, and two, by setting up small instant vaccination centers at COVID testing sites and at neighborhood events.

“One of our mantras is: low barrier, low barrier, low barrier,” she said. “We try to make everything as simple and easy as possible for them to access it.”

Yet among residents without insurance – especially undocumented Latinos – vaccine hesitancy rates have been relatively high, Tulier-Laiwa said. “First of all, they are afraid because they have no insurance. They’re also scared if they don’t have documents, and that’s really important.

Monique LeSarre, executive director of the Rafiki Coalition for Health and Wellness, which coordinates vaccine awareness efforts among San Francisco’s black community, said she had also heard concerns about the costs .

“Some people have been told they will be charged for this,” she told The Chronicle in an email. “They also heard that there are different prices and that J&J is the vaccine you get if you are not housed.”

Yet only about 4% of San Franciscans are uninsured, compared to an average of 9% across all of the most populous US counties in our analysis.

In Solano County, where 6% of residents are uninsured, Matyas said he had not specifically heard of reluctance over misinformation about the cost of vaccines. But, he said, his department has struggled to reach populations who tend to be uninsured, including homeless people and undocumented immigrants.

Methodology: Using data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, we calculated correlation coefficients between vaccination rates for counties of 250,000 or more and several independent factors, including rates of non-residents. insured counties, their share of adults 25 years or older. with university degrees and their poverty rates. We also performed regressions on uninsured variables and college degrees to better understand the nature of their relationships with county vaccination rates.

Susie Neilson is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Twitter: @susieneilson

The Chronicle has hired five journalists this year who will use data-driven techniques to cover the news in the Bay Area. The team’s work will appear in the newspaper on Sundays and Mondays. Discover more of their stories, analysis and interactive features at

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