While North Olympic Peninsula hospitals are beginning vaccinations against COVID-19 using Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s vaccine approval is expected this weekend, and the allotment for the Pfizer vaccine has been cut.
On Thursday, Clallam County confirmed eight new cases of COVID-19, while Jefferson County confirmed two new cases.
The new cases in Clallam County are tied to household and workplace exposures, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.
The new cases in Jefferson County contracted the novel coronavirus through out-of-county exposure, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
The 17 cases that were added in Clallam County on Wednesday included tests from previous days as the lab had fallen behind, but the issue has been corrected now, Unthank said.
Clallam and Jefferson counties each received one unit — 975 doses — of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, with the first administered Wednesday in Jefferson and the first expected to start today in Clallam.
The first doses are being given to frontline health care workers.
The general public is not expected to receive vaccinations until spring.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced via Twitter on Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reduced Washington state’s allotment of vaccine for next week by 40 percent.
“(The CDC) has informed us that (Washington)’s vaccine allocation will be cut by 40 percent next week — and that all states are seeing similar cuts,” Inslee’s post said. “This is disruptive and frustrating. We need accurate, predictable numbers to plan and ensure on-the-ground success.
“No explanation was given. Our state remains committed to getting all doses we are allocated out to healthcare providers and into the arms of Washingtonians.
“While we push for answers, that commitment will not change.”
Locke said while the announcement is surprising, local personnel have been preparing for problems like this to arise. It doesn’t take much to disrupt production of the vaccine, causing delays, as the Pfizer has high production expectations, he said.
“We’re kind of expecting a lot of uncertainty with vaccine supply,” Locke said. “That’s going to go up and down. A lot of the projections are based on the manufacturers meeting their production targets, which are very ambitious.
“Any glitches in that could potentially cause problems.”
The next shipment of vaccine for the Peninsula is expected in two to three weeks, so that those vaccinated with the initial dose can receive the second dose.
It was unknown as of Thursday how the second shipment will be affected, Locke said.
As of Wednesday, 62,400 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine have been delivered to Washington state, and it is expected that half of the initial vaccine that was produced was saved by Pfizer to be delivered after two to three weeks for those vaccinated first to receive their second dose, according to the state Department of Health.
Concurrently, the Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee of experts approved a recommendation that the FDA approve Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday. Official approval for use is expected, possibly as soon as this evening.
Unthank is excited to eventually receive the Moderna vaccine. It is similar to Pfizer’s in that it is also a messenger-RNA vaccine that requires two doses — albeit four weeks apart for Moderna’s — but it has much less stringent storage needs.
Instead of the minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit that the Pfizer vaccine requires, the Moderna vaccine needs only to be stored at regular refrigerator temperatures between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We’re really excited about that vaccine because it really will increase availability of vaccinations, especially on our remote West End,” where a deep-freeze is not available, Unthank said.
One place Unthank wants to vaccinate as soon as possible is the Clallam Bay Corrections Facility, but she said that’s not possible with the Pfizer vaccine due to shipping challenges and storage needs.
The Moderna vaccine also will be a better option for tribal medical facilities, Unthank said.
The test positivity on the Peninsula — the percentage of tests returned positive — also lowered in both counties to 4.4 percent in Clallam County for Nov. 30 through Dec. 14, and 1.72 percent in Jefferson County for Dec. 7 through Dec. 13.
So far this month, Jefferson County has confirmed 30 cases of COVID-19, 15 percent of the 200 total cases the county has confirmed since March, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.
Clallam County has confirmed 139 cases this month, about 21.2 percent of the 655 total cases the county has confirmed since March, according to Clallam County Public Health data.
There are currently 59 active COVID-19 cases in Clallam County, and nine active cases in Jefferson County.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].