Peninsula ready for school/childcare staff vaccinations

Both Jefferson and Clallam counties are on track to add COVID-19 vaccinations of teachers and child care workers, health officers said Sunday.

The two counties are now in the 1B1 category. That means that while all those eligible in earlier phases remain eligible for vaccines — those in 1A1 and 1A2 — more groups of people have been added.

The 1B1 category originally was for residents 65 and older and those 50 and older who live in multigenerational households or caregivers of older relative or children.

Added last week to the eligibility pool were pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade educators and staff, and all childcare providers regardless of age. Those who need more details can check with the state’s phase-finder tool at https://www.doh.wa.gov or check with county emergency management department hotlines.

“We vaccinated just under 900 people on Saturday and are on track to vaccinate all of the 1B1 group, including teachers/childcare workers in the next two weeks,” Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer, texted Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, said he conducted a town hall-type webinar for teachers and other school workers on Friday, answering questions and providing information.

“All of our focus this next week is getting teachers and child care workers vaccinated,” he said Sunday.

Stage 1B2 starts March 22. Then eligibility will be expanded to critical infrastructure workers of all ages in congregate settings such as grocery stores, food banks, transit agencies, correctional facilities and the agriculture and food-processing industries. Pregnant women older than 16 are eligible for vaccines in the 1B2 group.

During that stage, which focuses largely on workers, Locke said most information will go out through employers.

The point is to have as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“We hope by May you can walk into any pharmacy or doctor’s clinic, and if you haven’t been vaccinated, they can vaccinate you,” Locke said.

But so far, supply doesn’t meet demand, he said.

Clinics have been held in Port Angeles, Sequim, Forks, Clallam Bay and Joyce in Clallam County, and in Port Townsend though the Jefferson Healthcare hospital, with pharmacy pop-up clinics in Chimacum.

Locke said the county health department is training volunteers for a clinic in Chimacum, with a target date of March 21, depending on vaccine supply from the state.

Neither county has reported any new cases since Saturday.

Clallam County’s total since a year ago is 1,012. Jefferson County remained steady at 336 cases, a number which, if it is unchanged by late news on Sunday, will mean the county has had only two cases in the past week.

The North Olympic Peninsula has done a great job of keeping infections relatively low, Locke said, adding that some areas had more challenges than other.

“Eastern Washington would have less disease if not for Idaho,” Locke said. “Idaho did a horrible job of COVID control.

“Idaho is kind of the Texas of the Northwest.”

Locke said masking is way more important than originally realized.

“If you can get a pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic person to wear a mask,” that almost completely stops transmission, he said.

It’s particularly important in light of new variants.

“It’s pretty much inevitable that the UK variant will spread through Washington state,” Locke said, adding that projections that it would become the dominant strain in the nation by the end of the month “are right on track.”

Clinics are planned this week in Sequim from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, and in Port Angeles on Saturday and Sunday.

Jefferson County healthcare also will disperse vaccine. Residents register at https://jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine for the hospital’s clinics.

Clallam County residents can register at vaccine.clallam.net/register. Those who must schedule by phone can call 360-417-2430 for Port Angeles clinics, but online is more efficient, volunteers say. For Sequim-area appointments or questions, call 360-683-3447.

The Veteran Affairs Port Angeles Clinic is offering vaccinations to veterans who are eligible on a limited basis by calling 206-716-5716.

Limited vaccinations are offered at some local pharmacies such as Safeway, Costco and QFC. Locations, availability and how to register can be found at https://tinyurl.com/VaccineLocations. Individual pharmacies also have their own online scheduling.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected]

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