Vaccination rates have plateaued at 70 percent or below on the North Olympic Peninsula while people who are unvaccinated refuse to get shots and variant, more virulent, strains of the coronavirus threaten to spread among their ranks, Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Saturday.
“From my perspective, when a vaccine is this safe and effective and is completely free and readily available, to me, not getting vaccinated is not only personally reckless but antisocial,” he said.
“You are purposely endangering the lives of other people, and that’s antisocial.”
Gaps are closing between those who have received their first shots and those who are fully vaccinated, indicating that rates for the fully protected population are slowing as the party prone July Fourth weekend in Clallam and Jefferson counties hits its high point today, he said.
In Jefferson County, 73.3 percent of the population 12 and older has received at least one shot and 70.1 has received both doses, Locke said.
In Clallam County, where a man in his 70s whom health officials will not identify became the 13th pandemic fatality Wednesday, 62.7 percent of those 12 and older had received one shot and 58.6 percent were fully vaccinated, he said.
Four people have died from COVID-19 in Jefferson County.
“What’s depressing is that a certain percentage of those that are unvaccinated are going to get infected, and we’ll very likely see a spike, and we’ll see it six to 10 days from now,” Locke said.
“Things are really changing in terms of how we deal with cases and outbreaks because we just are recognizing that we have less and less ability to control this,” he continued.
There is no longer enough interest to conduct pop-up vaccination clinics, he said.
The vaccine has been readily available for months yet a third or more North Olympic Peninsula residents are choosing not to take it.
“They are just going to have more and more opportunity to get infected now that we are going to full-capacity restaurants and movie theaters and won’t wear masks and don’t want to get vaccinated,” he said.
“They don’t even want to believe that COVID is real and they want to believe people that are telling them this is not a thing.
“We can’t change that, we can’t change the culture, we can’t change people’s fundamental beliefs,” Locke said.
“At this point, the most effective way to change minds that are able to change is through relationships, trusted relationships with a trusted doctor or pastor or family member or someone who will help people see things from a different perspective.”
The demand for pop-up clinics in Clallam and Jefferson counties has waned, leaving it up to those who have not received their shots to get vaccinated on their own or wear masks of their own accord to prevent them from spreading it if they have been infected.
The clinics are no longer offered in Clallam County unless it is specifically requested, Ron Cameron, Clallam County undersheriff and emergency management director, said Saturday.
“We’ve pretty much scaled back our operations in the emergency management section,” he said.
“We have kept a couple of stations active to support anything that’s needed in case there is an outbreak. Nothing has been requested of us in the last 24 to 48 hours.”
Five new coronavirus cases were recorded in Clallam County on Friday, up from three Thursday, making a total of 1,473 cases since the first case was reported in mid-March, 2020, a rate of about three a day.
Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry does not make pandemic information available on Saturdays or Sundays.
She told Peninsula Daily News on Thursday that the risk of death “is actually quite high” if a person is infected by a variant, especially those over 65, although people in their 30s and 40s are being treated in intensive care.
Locke said two people remained hospitalized in intensive care as of Friday.
A total of six were being hospitalized as of 11:50 a.m. Friday, according to clallam.net/coronavirus.
Infection rates in both counties are at 50-60 per 100,000, Locke said.
In Jefferson County, cases increased by at least one as of Saturday compared to Friday, boosting the total to 450 since mid-March 2020, a rate of about one case a day.
“We’ll add at least two, maybe three additional cases today,” Locke said Saturday.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.