Health officers: Get vaccinated for your community

Fourth surge could be worse than expected, they say

We are so close, as a community, to getting free of COVID-19’s hold on us, Clallam County health officer Dr. Allison Berry said.

But the gains made in recent months could be quickly lost in a fourth surge, she added Friday.

The way to stop it, Berry and Jefferson County public health officer Dr. Tom Locke emphasize, is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“We have plenty of vaccine to move forward,” Berry said, adding Clallam expects shipments of 2,500 doses by the end of the month, and if those are used up, “we’re likely to get more.”

Across Washington state, Thursday is the first day of unrestricted vaccinations for anyone 16 or older. So the time is now to make an appointment, Berry said, even if it’s just for a first dose. For in-depth information about making appointments for vaccination clinics, see B1 in today’s edition.

Clallam County residents can make appointments for shots at sites in Sequim, Port Angeles and the West End; weekday and weekend clinics are planned, Berry said.

To schedule vaccinations in Clallam County, see http://www.clallam.net/coronavirus/vaccine.html.

In Jefferson County, see jeffersoncountypublichealth.org and click on COVID-19 updates.

In Jefferson County, Locke said, the shipments aren’t as large — 600 Moderna doses plus 100 Johnson & Johnson doses — but the county is adding sites this week.

Quilcene High School and Don’s Pharmacy in Port Townsend are among the places poised to take appointments; Jefferson Healthcare continues to offer inoculations, with information at jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine/.

Those needing help scheduling or canceling appointments can phone Jefferson County Emergency management at 360-344-9791.

If enough people are immunized, the new, highly contagious COVID variants will have nowhere to go, Locke said. That can mean eradication of the pandemic in the North Olympic Peninsula’s two counties.

On the other hand, if the variants outrun vaccinations, it could keep smoldering, sickening and killing more people, as the pandemic continues to do across the world.

It’s been a tough week for Clallam County, which saw outbreaks in restaurants, bars, a dental clinic and the Peninsula College women’s basketball team. The case count has risen to 1,123 as of Saturday, up from the 1,080 infection total of a week ago.

Restaurant and bar owners cooperated with investigators, who “are going to be able to completely contact-trace,” Berry said. She added that much of the spread at such establishments happens among employees, as they spend hours working right next to one another.

Such workers may be young and asymptomatic, but they can spread the virus to older friends and family.

In Jefferson County, the total case count has reached 358, with four new COVID infections diagnosed Friday and none reported Saturday. The new infections were found in people who were contacts of already-known cases, “which is really the pattern we’re seeing now,” Locke said.

“When you have a virus [variant] that’s twice as contagious, you’re going to see twice as many cases.”

When making a decision about the vaccine, Locke said, weigh the benefits and risks.

“The main benefit for you personally is that it dramatically reduces your chances of becoming severely ill, being hospitalized and dying,” he said.

At the same time, your shot benefits the people around you, some of whom could be more susceptible to fatal illness.

“Nothing is risk-free,” Locke added, but “this is one of the safest vaccines we’ve ever seen. We see allergic reactions,” in two to three people per 1 million vaccinated. The same happens with other vaccines including flu shots.

“That’s why we observe people for 15 minutes,” after their jab, so a possible reaction can be treated immediately, Locke said.

“We’re really concerned that a fourth wave could be a lot worse than people expected it to be,” he added.

With the highly transmissible strains of the virus circulating, “things you got away with last year may not protect you” this time around.

Berry added one more plea.

“Get vaccinated for your neighbors, your friends and your family,” she said.

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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