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70% of St. Louis County residents have at least one COVID shot

Medical leaders say it's a milestone accomplishment, even as we settle into a future where COVID-19 is here to stay.

BERKELEY, Mo. — County Executive Sam Page started his regular Monday morning briefing with "a milestone," 70% of county residents have gotten at least one coronavirus vaccine shot. Dr. Page said conditions are improving as some regions -- like Illinois -- drop mitigation measures.

"Here in St. Louis County we continue looking at the key metrics to guide us in what steps to take next," Page said.

The sign outside the Berkeley health clinic blinks brightly offering "walk-in COVID vaccine" shots, and thousands of people have taken them up on the offer. But on this Valentine's Day, they're not ready for a party.

"Nobody is celebrating. We have a long way to go," Christopher Ave, of the public health department, said. 

Inside the clinic, it's a party of none. The waiting room has open chairs between sporadic appointments. About a month ago, workers estimate they were serving 150 people a day, a number that's now dwindled to an average of fifteen.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction," Dr. Farrin Manian, Mercy Hospital Department of Medicine Chair, said, adding "but to be honest I wish that we had more people fully immunized."

Manian says the number of fully immunized county residents is closer to 62%.

Early in the pandemic, experts estimated herd immunity could happen if we reached 70% immunity, but omicron has proven to be a game-changer.

"To be honest with you, I think it's really important not to get hung up on the herd immunity anymore because omicron has taught us that it's much more transmissible than the original virus was, and so your herd immunity will need to be upwards of 90%+ to really be able to potentially contain the pandemic."

Manian says the medical community instead now accepts COVID-19 is likely here to stay. 

"I suspect that we may see outbreaks in areas where immunity wanes and perhaps the vaccination rates are not so high. We may see some regional outbreaks possibly in areas where there is not as much immunity to the virus," he said.

And Ave says they're still available to bridge the gap for people who need a shot, whether it be their first or a booster.

"It has been a long process, and we are gratified for every single patient that we serve," Ave said.

RELATED: 'We're almost there': Promising COVID trends could bring changes to St. Louis County mask mandate

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