Are you ready to ditch your mask?
By now you’ve probably heard that King County’s mask directive will be going away on June 29 because we’ve passed the 70% threshold of residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19, ages 16 and older. We’re one step closer to resuming normal life — and won’t it be nice to see people smile again?
That 70% figure is, of course, a countywide average. What that number doesn’t tell you is that there’s a pretty big vaccination gap in King County, as there is in much of the United States. This gap comes into focus when you look at the data from Public Health — Seattle & King County for vaccination rates by ZIP code (this data is for the total eligible population, ages 12 and older).
Much of Seattle, the Eastside and Vashon Island is at or well above the 70% mark for fully vaccinated people. But in South King County and the rural areas to the east, the rates are much lower — in some place, significantly lower.
As of June 15, the highest rate is in the Sammamish area (98074) where more than 87% of the 12-and-older population was fully vaccinated. The adjacent ZIP code, 98075, was just slightly lower, around 86%.
Mercer Island (98040) and North Seattle’s 98117 (this ZIP code covers the northern half of Ballard and the Blue Ridge/North Beach neighborhoods) were also around 86%.
Eight more ZIP codes — all in Seattle or on the Eastside — had hit 80% fully vaccinated as of June 15.
At the other end of the spectrum, there were 19 ZIP codes that were lower than 60% fully vaccinated, and even a handful where less than half were. These areas are mostly in the less-densely populated eastern parts of the county, or in South King County.
But in Seattle, the area around the University of Washington (98105) and parts of downtown (98104) were also below 60% fully vaccinated.
One important factor to consider is age. All age groups in the county 40 and older have passed the 70% fully vaccinated threshold, while none of the age groups younger than 40 have. For people 80 and older, the rate is greater than 95%. For the 12-19 year old group, the rate is about 46%.
So naturally, areas with higher vaccination rates tend to have a higher median age than the areas with lower rates. For example, Mercer Island’s 98040, which has one of the highest rates of fully vaccinated residents, has a median age of 46. Seattle’s University District (98105), where just 56% were fully vaccinated, is heavily populated with college students, and has a median age of 23. In South King County, Algona/Pacific’s 98047, where the fully vaccinated rate was just 45%, the median is 31.
Another important demographic factor is race and ethnicity. In King County, three groups had passed the 70% fully vaccinated threshold as of June 15: Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. The rate for white (non-Hispanic) people was a little lower, at around 66%. But among both Black and Hispanic people, the rate was only around 50%.
On the Eastside and in much of Seattle, the population is largely white and Asian, while South King County has a higher percentage of Black and Hispanic residents.
Across the nation, Black and Hispanic people are less likely to have received the vaccine than other groups. In King County the vaccine is always free and there are a number of drop-in vaccination sites where no appointment is necessary. Free rides to and from vaccination sites, and free child care, are available. Language interpretation and other assistance is available through the King County COVID-19 Call Center (206-477-3977).
But age and racial demographics don’t explain the lower rates of fully vaccinated people in the rural east.
For example, in Enumclaw’s 98022, the population tends to be older, with a median age of 44. And only around 11% of the population is Hispanic or Black. Even so, rate of fully vaccinated residents was just 48%.
The lower rates in these areas likely reflect the more conservative political outlook of many residents, who may have a greater degree of vaccine skepticism. And because these areas are much less-densely populated than the rest of the county, there also might be less fear over contracting COVID-19.
One important caveat about the data: It only includes people who received their vaccine in King County. If you were vaccinated somewhere else, King County can’t track that information.