The impact of COVID-19 vaccination on California’s return to normalcy

Maria L. Daza-Torres, Yury E. García, Alec J. Schmidt, Brad H. Pollock, James Sharpnack, Miriam Nuño

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


SARS-CoV-2 has infected nearly 3.7 million and killed 61,722 Californians, as of May 22, 2021. Non-pharmaceutical interventions have been instrumental in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. However, as we ease restrictions, widespread implementation of COVID-19 vaccines is essential to prevent its resurgence. In this work, we addressed the adequacy and deficiency of vaccine uptake within California and the possibility and severity of resurgence of COVID-19 as restrictions are lifted given the current vaccination rates. We implemented a real-time Bayesian data assimilation approach to provide projections of incident cases and deaths in California following the reopening of its economy on June 15, 2021. We implemented scenarios that vary vaccine uptake prior to reopening, and transmission rates and effective population sizes following the reopening. For comparison purposes, we adopted a baseline scenario using the current vaccination rates, which projects a total 11,429 cases and 429 deaths in a 15-day period after reopening. We used posterior estimates based on CA historical data to provide realistic model parameters after reopening. When the transmission rate is increased after reopening, we projected an increase in cases by 21.8% and deaths by 4.4% above the baseline after reopening. When the effective population is increased after reopening, we observed an increase in cases by 51.8% and deaths by 12.3% above baseline. A 30% reduction in vaccine uptake alone has the potential to increase cases and deaths by 35% and 21.6%, respectively. Conversely, increasing vaccine uptake by 30% could decrease cases and deaths by 26.1% and 17.9%, respectively. As California unfolds its plan to reopen its economy on June 15, 2021, it is critical that social distancing and public behavior changes continue to be promoted, particularly in communities with low vaccine uptake. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to ease mask-wearing for fully vaccinated individuals despite major inequities in vaccine uptake in counties across the state highlights some of the logistical challenges that society faces as we enthusiastically phase out of this pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0264195
JournalPloS one
Issue number5 May
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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