The federal Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, and Peninsula health officials hope the move will help those on the fence decide to get vaccinated.
Clallam County this weekend confirmed 107 new cases and one death, the 20th in the county and 24th on the North Olympic Peninsula. Jefferson County confirmed 10 new cases.
The Clallam County man who died of COVID-19 was in his 90s and fully vaccinated — the second vaccinated death on the Peninsula — but he had multiple significant underlying chronic health conditions, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Berry said it’s believed the man didn’t fully respond to the vaccine due to a combination of his age and health conditions.
“We do know how he got exposed, and he was exposed by an unvaccinated person,” Berry said. “So, I think it’s a good reminder, especially when we’re talking about our elders who we know can’t respond as well to the vaccine, it’s really important for those of us who are young to get vaccinated to protect them.
“This gentleman, due to his age and co-morbities, declined treatment when he got the hospital, so he was pretty immediately transferred to hospice. We don’t know if he would have been able to survive it with full treatment, but we support his treatment decision and wish peace to his family.”
Everyone 12 and older is eligible to vaccinated for COVID-19, but Pfizer’s is the first of the three U.S. vaccines to be fully approved for those 16 and older. It remains under Emergency Use Authorization for those 12 and older, in addition to the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The formula made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech now carries the strongest endorsement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). More than 200 million Pfizer doses have been administered in the U.S. — and hundreds of millions more worldwide — under special emergency provisions since December.
Moderna’s vaccine has been submitted for full approval, but it’s expected to be at least another one to two months before the FDA can provide its full approval.
Berry welcomed the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
“I’m happy to see it,” she said. “I’m hopeful that this will provide some reassurance to folks who were on the fence about the vaccine, wanting to make sure it was fully vetted.
“There has been a lot of data on this vaccine, and now going through the full FDA approval and vetting process will help set some minds at ease.”
Both Peninsula counties continue to set record highs for their respective case rates, with Clallam County reporting 497 cases per 100,000 population for the last two weeks as of Monday, and Jefferson County reported 263.32 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, according to county public health data.
Cases continue to originate from a variety of sources such as indoor gatherings, unvaccinated travel out of county and out of state in addition to work places.
Berry also confirmed Monday a COVID-19 outbreak at Clallam Bay Corrections Center with three infected staff members and three inmates.
Berry said she doesn’t expect the cases to stop rising for at least another week or two. At that point, they may start to plateau, but that depends on how well people follow mitigations such as wearing face masks indoors, social distancing and getting vaccinated if they are eligible, she said.
“That can flatten that curve, and we can stop seeing these numbers rise and start to seeing them turn around again,” Berry said.
Clallam County has confirmed a total of 2,229 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Jefferson County has confirmed 640 cases.
Four people have died from the disease in Jefferson County.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]