The Highest Vaccination Rate in California

Once an anti-vaccine stronghold, Marin County has become an unlikely champion of Covid-19 shots. But will it last?

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It’s Friday. Once an anti-vaccine stronghold, Marin County has become an unlikely champion of Covid-19 shots. Also, should social justice be part of California’s math curriculum?

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Charles Hill, a hospital worker in San Rafael, was the first person to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in Marin County, which currently has the best vaccination rate in California.Credit…Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal, via Associated Press

The pocket of California that has emerged as a leader in Covid-19 vaccinations may come as a surprise.

Seventy-eight percent of people living in Marin County are fully vaccinated against Covid — the highest rate of any county in California (and just about anywhere in the nation).

But Marin County, a wealthy enclave across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, has historically been a hotbed for anti-vaccine sentiment, a place where many have long shunned routine immunizations.

There are a few possible explanations for the apparent change of heart: The coronavirus pandemic has made the need for vaccinations very real while shifting the politics around getting shots. And anti-vaccine reputation aside, Marin County fits the profile of a highly vaccinated place: rich, college-educated and liberal.

But perhaps more important, Covid-19 vaccinations thus far have mostly been limited to adults, with resistance to vaccines long focused on possible effects on young children — for whom Covid-19 vaccines became available only this week.

“What we think of as anti-vaxxers — and historically in Marin — is very much rooted in childhood vaccinations,” Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told me. “I think you’re already seeing some people balking at the idea that they need to vaccinate their children, even if they themselves are vaccinated.”

Marin County officials say they hope to administer first doses to 75 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds, the newest group eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, by early December. But many see that as an overly ambitious target, especially in Marin.

Dr. Christopher Longhurst, a pediatrician who worked at Stanford for many years, remembers treating children from nearby Marin County who came in infected with measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Longhurst told me about a 6-week-old in the intensive care unit who was admitted with whooping cough, a disease for which the infant was too young to be vaccinated.

The baby lived in a part of Marin County where, because of low childhood vaccination levels, “herd immunity had evaporated,” he said. The infection killed the child.

“Long before Covid, I’ve been a very big vaccine advocate,” he said.

In Marin County in May, an unvaccinated teacher spread the coronavirus to half the students in a classroom. And this week, the county became the first in the Bay Area to lift its indoor mask mandate, a move some criticized given a recent plateau in Covid-19 cases.

But Marin County has mainly played the part of Covid-cautious county. Even when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide Covid-19 vaccine requirement for students, the strictest in the nation, there was little pushback.

At a recent protest in Sacramento against the mandate, families from the Bay Area, and specifically Marin County, were largely absent.

“We still have pockets of very vocal vaccine refusers,” the county health officer, Dr. Matt Willis, told The San Francisco Chronicle, but “it’s clear the community culture has shifted.”

For years, resistance to childhood vaccinations was something embraced by left-leaning, hippiesh types. But opposing Covid-19 vaccines is associated with President Donald J. Trump, an unlikely stance in Marin County, where 82 percent of voters cast ballots for President Biden in 2020.

Still, things often become more complicated when children get involved. Already, Covid-19 vaccination rates for 12- to 17-year-olds in California are lower than for older age groups: 60 percent compared with 71 percent for 18- to 49-year-olds.

The rates may drop even lower for the latest group to become eligible for a shot, given that parents tend to be particularly protective over younger children.

Though Covid-19 has become a leading cause of death among children, some parents may be more hesitant to vaccinate children because their risk of severe illness is far below that of adults.

In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 27 percent of parents nationwide said they wanted to immediately vaccinate their 5- to 11-year-olds. Thirty percent said they would definitely not get them their shots.

“I am interested in seeing whether the enthusiasm and the wholesale uptake of vaccinations that we’ve seen in some areas” will translate into vaccinations for children, Bibbins-Domingo told me. “I think people are anticipating we’re not going to get the high rates we see in adults.”

For more:

Check case and vaccination rates in your county.

Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and Oakland are the first large school districts in the country to require students to be vaccinated against Covid-19, Politico reports.

The center of Italy’s anti-vaccine protests is now a Covid hot spot.

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A precalculus class at George Washington High School in San Francisco this year.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

If you read one story, make it this

Should social justice be part of California’s math curriculum?

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Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, entering the federal courthouse in San Jose this week.Credit…John G Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock

The rest of the news

Theranos trial: The trial of Elizabeth Holmes has exposed the ways that sophisticated investors can be swept up in the hype of a hot start-up.

Future of the G.O.P.: This is what Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia governor’s race can teach California Republicans, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The company formerly known as Facebook: The social media giant Meta is discussing opening retail stores that will eventually span the world.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Pico-Union shooting: The state attorney general’s office has opened an independent investigation into a deadly shooting by Los Angeles police officers in July, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Vaccine verification: Los Angeles is set to put into place some of the nation’s strictest Covid-19 vaccine verification rules, but officials won’t immediately cite those who run afoul of the new regulations, The Los Angeles Times reports.

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Teacher shortage: Fresno officials have agreed to provide an additional $200 stipend for substitutes who teach 20 consecutive days, according to ABC News.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Weather warning: Flooding is expected in low-lying areas around Humboldt Bay this morning.

Covid-19 in jails: After a 76-year-old vaccinated inmate died of Covid-19, activists are warning of dangerous conditions in Sacramento jails, The Sacramento Bee reports.

A reprieve from drought?: Rain fell across parts of Northern California on Thursday, and more was possible into the weekend, but forecasts were backing off chances of an atmospheric river event next week, The Associated Press reports.

PG&E settlement: Pacific Gas and Electric will pay $125 million in costs related to the Kincade fire, which was ignited in 2019 by the utility’s equipment in Sonoma County, according to The Associated Press.

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Credit…Andrew Purcell for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

What we’re eating

Creamy butternut squash pasta with sage and walnuts.

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A fire-dancing troupe drew a crowd at the Nevada City Summer Nights street festival in 2018.Credit…Elias Funez/The Union via Associated Press

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Monica Vincent, who recommends Nevada City, which is about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento:

On my first visit we discovered Hirschman’s Pond, which let me drop right into being at home with the beauty and nature that surround this little well-preserved Gold Rush town on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Surrounded by forests, other Gold Rush towns like Grass Valley, and the Yuba River, Nevada City transports you to another time.

As you arrive at the edge of town, you cross Deer Creek, which flows through the center of town as a reminder that this is a town rooted in the search for gold. The town’s historical buildings now house restaurants, shops, museums and the historic Nevada Theater. They have film festivals, music events and fairs. My favorite time to visit is winter. Little Nevada City turns into a postcard picture for Christmas when the businesses and residents trim the town with small white lights — when and if it snows, the beauty is breathtaking. The town is friendly and inviting, low key, yet hip in a small town kind of way. There are sweet BNBs and places to stay, eat and just hang out. The surrounding area is full of hiking trails — or just pack a picnic lunch and head to Hirschman’s Pond and unwind!

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What we’re recommending

The movies coming to streaming and theaters this winter.

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Credit…Rob Coons

And before you go, some good news

I’ll let the first line of this article speak for itself: “Were it not for two goats named Thelma and Louise, Lauren Trout and Chris Angeloro may not have had a love story.”

Trout and Angeloro married last month on a yacht sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge. Read more from The Times.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be back Monday. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: First sign of the zodiac (5 letters).

Steven Moity, Shivani Gonzalez and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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