Hundreds given first dose of Pfizer vaccine on Peninsula

First shipments of Moderna vaccine arrive in Clallam County

Health officials continue to vaccinate those within the Phase 1A group on Wednesday as they work through the logistics of coordinating low amounts of vaccine and different organizations that qualify for it.

At the same time, health officers in both North Olympic Peninsula counties continue to urge residents to avoid gathering over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends, and to carefully follow other health guidelines, to avoid a surge in cases similar to what other parts of the nation experienced after Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday, Jefferson County confirmed two additional cases of COVID-19, with one person who contracted the novel coronavirus out of state and the other who caught it from an infected family member, said Dr. Tom Locke, the county health officer.

Clallam County held steady with no new cases Wednesday, said Dr. Allison Unthank, the county health officer.

Each county has been administering Pfizer’s vaccine to those within Phase 1A — which includes health care workers, at-risk first responders and long-term care facility staff and residents.

This week each county received a second unit of 975 doses.

In Jefferson County, Jefferson Healthcare had administered the vaccine to 650 people as of Tuesday evening. There were 95 vaccination appointments scheduled Wednesday and 53 scheduled for today as of Wednesday morning, said Amy Yaley, Jefferson Healthcare spokesperson.

Jefferson Healthcare has been vaccinating frontline health care workers, first responders and long-term care facility staff, Yaley said.

Most long-term care facilities are part of a separate federal program that will have staff and residents vaccinated through contracts with local pharmacies. The doses are separate from those given to counties, Locke said.

Vaccinations are expected to begin next week at the earliest, he added, so some staff at such facilities have been getting vaccines through the county.

In Clallam County, 45 of the initial 975 doses received were sent to Forks Community Hospital for its 1A group, and 320 were given to Clallam County Public Health, leaving about 610 doses for Olympic Medical Center, said Jennifer Burkhardt, chief human resources officer and general counsel for OMC.

As of Wednesday, OMC had vaccinated 360 of its staff of about 1,600 employees, Burkhardt said.

OMC initially planned to do about two vaccination clinics a week with Pfizer’s vaccine, due to the limited supply and to facilitate staggering employees receiving the vaccine to make sure staffing stays steady in all departments, officials said.

But there is a possibility of additional clinics being added, Burkhardt said. That depends on vaccine shipments and that appointments need to be arranged due to the fragility of the vaccine once it’s out of ultra-cold storage.

Jefferson County rolled out its vaccine clinics earlier than Clallam County because of logistical complexities with Clallam County’s health care system, Unthank said.

Jefferson County’s health care providers are primarily tied to Jefferson Healthcare hospital, while Clallam County has a variety of private health care clinics in addition to Olympic Medical Center.

Meetings today will go over how the clinics’ workers will be served, Unthank said.

Clallam County Public Health also has overseen the vaccination of the staff and residents of two long-term care facilities that are not part of the federal program, for a total of about 200 people, Unthank said.

Moderna’s vaccine

Clallam County received its first shipments of Moderna’s vaccine Wednesday, with 500 doses delivered to the public health department, 200 doses to Olympic Medical Physicians clinic and about 1,000 doses to the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, Burkhardt said.

Jefferson County had not been notified as of Wednesday if or when it might receive Moderna’s vaccine, Locke said.

Burkhardt, Locke and Unthank expect vaccinations for the Phase 1A group will continue through the end of the month, with Phase 1B starting during the first weeks of January.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices — which is comprised of immunization and disease experts — recommended Phase 1B include frontline essential workers and people older than 75, Locke said.

However, the state had not announced by Wednesday if it would adopt that recommendation — although it is expected it will — and the state has not defined exactly who classifies as a frontline essential worker.

Those determinations are expected over the next few days, Locke said.

So far this month, Clallam County has confirmed 178 cases, about 25.6 percent of the 694 the county has confirmed since March, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 39 cases of COVID-19, about 18.7 percent of the 209 the county has confirmed since March, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

Sixty COVID-19 cases were active as of Wednesday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had 10 active cases.

The test positivity on the Peninsula — the percentage of tests returned positive — is 3.9 percent in Clallam County for Dec. 6-20, and 1.13 percent in Jefferson County for Dec. 14-20.

Jefferson County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 59.56 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Monday.

Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category with a case rate of 129 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Wednesday.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].

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