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COVID: Bay Area Health Officials Say Some Areas Would Be Vulnerable To Omicron Variant; Holdouts Seek Vaccine

ANTIOCH (KPIX 5) – While much of the Bay Area has high vaccination rates, health officials say parts of the region are more likely to feel the impact of the recently-discovered omicron variant.

It will be a couple of weeks before the world understands more about the variant. How infectious is it? How do people and vaccines respond to it?

As for what it means in the Bay Area, where the first U.S. case was discovered Wednesday, it's important to consider vaccination rates in many parts of the region are above 90%.

"Well I was reluctant," said Gene Lemasters at the Solano County Fairgrounds. "But with everything going on, it's better to do it then not do it."

It took some arm twisting, but Gene Lemasters came in for his first vaccination shot Thursday. Ask health officials and they'll say that's really all anyone, or they can do right now.

"You know, besides doubling down on what we've already been doing, which is pushing vaccinations," Contra Costa Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano told KPIX 5.

For Contra Costa, the one area of ongoing concern is the eastern stretch of Highway 4, where vaccination levels have trailed the 75% to 85% target zone, possibly problematic if an aggressive variant were to arrive and spread quickly.

"Yeah, yeah we could see more outbreaks, we could see bigger outbreaks," Farnitano said. "We could see school classrooms getting shut down."

"Places in California that have lower rates of vaccination. That's where the variant comes in and finds people who are unvaccinated," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UCSF.

Solano County is another spot trailing those target numbers, though they continue to climb.

Solano Vax Clinic
COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Solano County fairgrounds, December 2, 2021. (CBS)

"Yesterday was 1,140," said Ben Gammon of Solano County EMS, referring to the traffic at the Fairgrounds vaccination clinic. "Yesterday was a high number for us out here."

Every shot will help. A lot of experts think omicron won't cause much of a ripple in areas with higher vaccination rates.

"So the mainstay, the way to control this, it's vaccination," Gandhi told KPIX 5. "That's it."

"It's not going away," Farnitano said. "We're going to have this virus circulating for years. How much it circulates really depends on overall community vaccination levels."

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