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COVID vaccinations have second strong week in Berks

The past week’s COVID-19 statistics for Berks County show that the burst of vaccinations continues for a second week as the surge of cases from the latest omicron variant continues.

Many more residents have been heeding the call from health experts who have been worried for months that many, especially those with conditions exploited by COVID, have been lagging in getting shots, especially boosters.

The latest numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of Health COVID dashboard for Berks County:

• 467: Residents getting “fully vaccinated” in the past week for a total of 251,300 over the entire 20-month episode of inoculation opportunities. It was the most in that category since February.

• 549: Residents getting either their first booster or a third full dose for the immunocompromised in the past week, for a total of 119,679.

• 1,278: Residents getting either a second booster or a fourth full dose for the immunocompromised in the past week, for a total of 23,816.

All of the categories had bigger increases than a week earlier and the week before that, with 1,278 representing the most shots in that category since early June.

In terms of age groups, the data shed some light on who is getting vaccinated.

Not surprisingly, the older age groups have a much higher percentage of vaccinations than younger.

Berks lags a few percentage points behind the state average in the age groups for the youngest but closes the gap as age rises, until the 60 to 64 age group where Berks leads the state in two of three categories.

The breakdown for Berks in 60-64: 81.7% fully vaccinated; 49.4% with a first booster; and 11.5% with a second booster.

The breakdown for Pa. in 60-64: 78.9%; 48.0% and 11.7%, respectively.

And, not surprisingly, the second booster category ramps up with age, hitting double digits at the 60 to 64 age group, and increasing to about 20% past age 80.

The 75 to 79 age group in Berks also shows a slight lead in percentages in all three categories over the state averages.

By gender, females have held a roughly 8 percentage point lead in Berks over most of the vaccination period.

Latest numbers for females: 62.6% fully vaccinated; 31.0% with one booster; and 6.2% with a second.

Latest numbers for males: 54.4%, 25.0% and 4.9%.

Statewide, females lead all three categories at 65.5% to 58.%; 33.6% to 27.8%; and 7.1% to 5.7%, respectively.

Berks females and males trail the state percentages in their respective genders.

About the stats

The wild cards in the COVID vaccination statistics are the errors that creep into the registrations of first, second, third and fourth doses. Plus, no one who dies of any cause is purged from the vaccination rolls, and transitioning from one age group to another isn’t taken into account.

To avoid the ridiculous, vaccinations in age groups are capped at 95%. Most of those are the one-dose category.

In Berks, the one-dose 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, and 85 and up age groups have been capped at 95% for months. The category of fully vaccinated for 75- to 79-year-olds was recently capped at 95%.

Anyone applicable to those age groups getting a first shot — or second shot for 75 to 79 — won’t count anymore. Presumably, the boosters would count.

Overall, across Pennsylvania those age groups and more are also capped at 95%.

In adjoining Chester County, the capping of age groups at 95% starts as low as the one-dose crowd for ages 30 to 34. The capping for fully vaccinated begins with the 65 to 69 group and runs through the higher age groups.

There was a major statistical cleanup a year ago by the state health department of vaccinations, purging about 600,000 bogus first doses. There were a couple of smaller cleanups later in 2021, but none have been announced in 2022.

It’s unclear what the margin of error is in the vaccination stats.

Cases and more

The latest COVID surge is a composite of four omicron variants and started in early May. There was a short-lived dip in cases in late June.

Berks County remains a low-risk COVID county in the assessment of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though the case numbers have been escalating for four straight weeks and with them the positivity rate and hospitalizations.

Berks was a plus 74 cases for the week in the weekly update of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard.

The positivity rate in Berks for the week jumped to 19.6% from 16.4% a week earlier.

The new-cases rate jumped to 113 per 100,000 of the population, up from 92.

Both figures would have caused alarm among health officials in the pandemic phases of the disease.

Pennsylvania overall saw an increase of 1,405 cases for the week after being fairly flat last week following a big increase two weeks ago.

Pennsylvania’s overall infection rate and positivity rate also saw significant increases, up to 131 per 100,000 and and 17.4%, respectively.

Other COVID statistics for Berks from the CDC:

• 37: Hospital admissions in the past week, up from 24 a week earlier.

• 2,506: Tests recorded in the past week, up about 130. Earlier in July there was a weekly increase of about 400 tests.

Case levels are four to five times higher in Berks than at the same time in the previous pandemic summers of 2020 and 2021.

Pennsylvania is averaging 202 COVID hospital admissions per day in the past week and has recorded 116 deaths in the past week, according to the CDC.

By the weekend, the CDC COVID statistics are more up to date than the midweek state health department update.

National look

BA.5 has become the most dominant strain of COVID since its parent, the original omicron, ran rampant through the U.S. population at the beginning of 2022, according to the CDC.

The highly contagious strain is responsible for 82% of all cases in the country, and a slightly smaller percentage of the mid-Atlantic, according to CDC information.

BA.5 hit in earnest about three weeks ago and pushed up the national seven-day case average to 129,674 on July 16.

Since then, there has been a slow but steady erosion of that number, with the latest figure Saturday of 125,355.

The seven-day average first peaked in the second omicron surge at 110,666 on May 26 before dropping below 100,000 until early this month.

The official case numbers are about a seventh of the peak of the initial omicron surge that started the year. Many people who had the original omicron have also been afflicted by one of the variants.

Health officials are concerned that an accurate picture of the spread isn’t available due to widespread at-home testing and no testing.

Free testing site

The state health department encourages residents to drop in to the COVID community-based testing sites operated in partnership with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, including the Berks site in Bern Township.

AMI is offering three forms of free testing: point-of-care tests where tests are performed and results are analyzed on-site; the distribution of at-home antigen testing; and continued administration of the nasal passage swab PCR testing.

The Bern Township site is at 2561 Bernville Road.

The site is expected to be open at least until Sept. 4, running 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Officials said the Do Your Part Berks website remains a good source of information:

Source: Berkshire mont

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