As Delta variant spreads, San Francisco’s undecided consider COVID vaccination

‘We’ve seen an uptick’

Four months after coronavirus vaccines became widely available in San Francisco, interest appears to be increasing.

Of eligible residents, 77 percent are fully vaccinated as of Sunday, some of the highest rates nationwide. That leaves 24 percent San Francisco residents unvaccinated, including those ages 12 and under who are not yet eligible.

But with the delta variant being much more contagious, even as virulent as chickenpox, it now makes up most new coronavirus cases. That’s triggered concern high enough to warrant a return to some restrictions just over a month since California’s grand reopening on June 15.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated last week that that fully vaccinated individuals, while strongly protected from severe coronavirus illness, can spread the delta variant to others in the relatively rare case they contract the virus. San Francisco and other Bay Area health officials on Monday reinstated an indoor mask mandate in public settings regardless of vaccination status.

There was a lull in people coming to the Southeast Health Center, in The City’s Bayview District, to get vaccinated until about two weeks ago, said the clinic’s medical director Dr. Keith Seidel. Now, as cases from the delta variant increase, they see about 50 to 60 people a day for vaccinations.

“I think that’s pushing people to come down now,” Dr. Seidel said. “We’ve seen an uptick.”

Since July 23, The City’s 7-day average for daily new residents who have at least one vaccine dose has remained above 500. The rates have slightly rebounded from a daily average of 423 on July 10 — the lowest since vaccines became widely available.

“Although we are unable to speculate on the individual reasons of why people have decided to get vaccinated at this time, we are glad to see continued vaccine interest,” the San Francisco Department of Public Health said, in a statement. “COVID-19 vaccines are extraordinarily effective, making severe illness, hospitalizations, and death nearly entirely preventable. With the highly transmissible Delta variant now the dominant virus strain, it is not a good time to be unvaccinated. The vaccine continues to be our best way to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.”

Ingleside resident Ramona Addison was prepared as far back as last September to get vaccinated but changed her mind after hearing about the side effects from people she knew who had been inoculated.

On Monday afternoon, she found herself feeling sick with a headache and congestion and in line at the Southeast Health Facility for a COVID-19 test. She planned on walking down to the vaccination booth afterward.

“I was never not going to take it,” Addison said. “I was just ‘wait-and-see.’”

Joline Valenzuela is not so sure. She also felt sick enough, with congestion and a cough, to get tested for coronavirus, which friends of hers have tested positive for recently.

The potential side effects of the vaccine have her steering clear of getting that first dose.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” said Valenzuela, who lives in Mission Bay. “They’re still trying to convince me. I have two little ones at home, that’s the only thing that worries me. [Delta] is more scary than the regular one.”

In Daniel Truong’s case, he sought the vaccine for months through, the state’s appointment system, to no avail. He’s continued to mask up, limit outings and play it safe.

It wasn’t until a visit to see his father-in-law at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital that he found a drop-in site in the building to get vaccinated.

“It’s very, very hard to navigate,” said Truong, of MyTurn. “We just gave up. If it was easier, we would’ve done it sooner.”

Even though there’s more interest in vaccines detected at Southeast Health Facility, testing accounts for roughly double the amount of patients there. It’s a mix of unvaccinated and the extra-cautious vaccinated folks.

“Testing has gone way back up,” Dr. Seidel said. “We would prefer it to be reversed.”

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