NANTUCKET CURRENT: WHAT IS THE ISLAND’S TRUE VACCINATION RATE?

Written By: Jason Graziadei

Just how much progress is Nantucket making toward vaccinating its population against COVID-19 ahead of the summer? With such a wide disparity in year-round population estimates and the moving target of the island’s seasonal population increase, it’s actually quite difficult to discern.

Nantucket Cottage Hospital released new data this week, showing 8,445 people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 6,152 individuals fully vaccinated with two doses. The headlines say Cape Cod and the Islands have the highest vaccination rates in the state, but at least in Nantucket’s case, that’s because the state is calculating the rate using the 2010 Census population for the island of 10,172 people, a number widely known to be a severe undercount. In 2018, the Nantucket Data Platform issued its own year-round population estimate for the island, and pegged the number at 17,200 people.

Going by the Census then, about 83 percent of the island has received at least one dose. If you use the Data Platform number, it drops to 49 percent. And Nantucket Health Department Director Roberto Santamaria believes the island’s year-round population is really closer to 20,000, which would mean only about 30 percent of residents have received one vaccine dose.

“The Data Platform information is three years old, and the population has grown even since then,” Santamaria said. “I’m worried we’re actually closer to 30 percent (of the year-round population.” Santamaria is less worried about the vaccination rate among those coming to Nantucket for the season. “Nantucket is an expensive place to visit and live, and across the country we’re seeing the more affluent you are, the more likely you are to have been vaccinated. It’s informal so far, but in conversations with visitors, we’re been hearing they’re already fully vaccinated. Or they’re calling and wanting to get their second vaccine, which means they’re partially vaccinated when they get here. That’s all really good. We have low vaccine hesitancy among our visitors.”

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