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LIVERMORE — Recognizing that the City of Livermore has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the county, city officials have formulated a seven-step plan to both encourage residents to get vaccinated and to provide residents the opportunity to do so.

“As you may be aware, the City of Livermore currently has the highest unvaccinated rate of any incorporated city in the county,” wrote Mayor Bob Woerner in a letter dated July 28 addressed to the County Administrator’s Office. “This is not a distinction we take lightly; indeed, we are very concerned and are doing all we can to increase our vaccination rate.”

The city’s plan includes the creation of a COVID-19 task force that will be responsible for developing recommendations to increase the vaccination rate in Livermore. Deputy City Manager Christine Martin will chair the task force. Members will consist of city and county representatives, as well as business, health care and faith leaders from the private sector who are influential in the community.

“Assembling the task force members is first and foremost,” said Martin. “We’ve already started on that. The mayor has been reaching out to several of our community partners. The second order of business will be to get our first meeting going as soon as possible — within the next two weeks.”

Community Development Direct Paul Spence added that he hopes the task force members will know Livermore well, understand its diversity and help the city’s efforts to connect with the community of unvaccinated residents.

City officials are faced with two problems: understanding who has yet to be vaccinated and understanding why residents have not yet been vaccinated. To solve the first half of that equation, Woerner turned to the county for data.

In his July 28 letter, he asked the county to provide more granular data regarding the spread of COVID-19 infections in the city. Specifically, he requested case rates for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents at the census tract or ZIP code level; hospitalization and death rates for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents; and county support for hosting pop-up vaccination clinics in the city’s more vulnerable neighborhoods.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a census tract is a small, relatively permanent statistical subdivision of a county. There are about 4,000 people in an average census tract. By analyzing vaccination rates at the census tract level, officials can get a better understanding of the specific neighborhoods where vaccination rates are low. Up to the point of the mayor’s request, pandemic-related data was available at the city level, making it difficult to determine where vaccination efforts could be best spent.

The county responded to Woerner on Aug. 12 with the data that was requested.

“The data showed us that our low vaccination rates are generally spread throughout the city, across many census tracts,” Woerner wrote in an email to The Independent. “So we will be working with the county on messaging and tailoring our outreach to our varied community.”

Data provided by the county also contained important demographic information. It showed that the unvaccinated population was distributed across racial and ethnic populations, as well as across census tracts, indicating a widespread challenge for the city.

According to the county’s data, 51% of the Latino community over the age of 12 has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Among the white population, the vaccination rate is 65%, but still lags behind the neighboring Tri-Valley cities by a wide margin. The vaccination rate in Pleasanton is currently 90.1%, while in Dublin it is reported at 87.8%.

With two distinct populations of unvaccinated residents, city officials believe that messaging will need to be developed for each population. While the data can help city leaders understand who has yet to be vaccinated, it does not explain why large portions of the population have not yet chosen to be vaccinated.

“What’s happening in some of these outreach efforts is understanding — of those that are hesitant — why,” Woerner offered. “The more that we can interact with that particular population, we’ll find out why. That will help develop the right messaging.”

One highlight in the city’s recent efforts was a vaccination clinic held this past weekend

“The clinic overperformed what we were expecting,” Martin said. “It did really, really well. I think that’s because we had tremendous outreach efforts on the city side of things, and also the county. They are a great, great partner ... Our outreach was outstanding, and I think that really drove the success of the clinic.”

Cognizant of the gravity of the city’s vaccination challenge, city officials say they’re focused on the task at hand.

For more information about the City of Livermore’s vaccination efforts, visit www.cityoflivermore.net.