As the fourth wave of the pandemic hovers, there is still a chance to draw it down, the two county health officials said Saturday.
“The most important thing I can say is now is the time to get vaccinated. The vaccines are available. And it is urgent that people get vaccinated now,” before COVID-19’s next surge can overtake the region, said Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke.
With the fourth wave potentially peaking a month from now, “those who don’t get vaccinated are going to be at increasing risk of infection,” he added.
Locke acknowledged that many people are undecided about whether to be inoculated — but “it’s a dangerous decision to not get vaccinated right now.”
The effects of COVID-19, for all too many survivors, “are way worse than influenza in terms of its long-term consequences.” In other words, the coronavirus leaves some people, of various ages, with health problems that linger far longer than those of the flu.
At the same time, vaccine supply is strong in both Clallam and Jefferson counties. People age 16 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer shots; those 18 and older can get the Moderna vaccine. The Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine has been reauthorized and will shortly be available at pop-up vaccination sites and doctors’ clinics, said Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry.
Administration of the Johnson & Johnson shot was paused earlier this month after rare cases of blood clots appeared in women who had received it. These cases were in young women, Berry noted, “so women under 50 should consider alternatives,” as in Moderna or Pfizer. Pregnant women also should seek shots other than Johnson & Johnson, she said.
Over the past week, Clallam County has seen 25 people test positive for COVID-19, bringing the number to 131 so far in April. Saturday morning, Berry reported four more people infected with the coronavirus in the county; this brings the total over the past year to 1,196.
In Jefferson County, Locke on Saturday morning reported three more people testing positive. They bring the April number to 35 cases and the total over the past year to 380 cases.
Locke and Berry both want to adjust their immunization strategies. Demand is dropping off for the mass vaccination sites at Chimacum High School and Port Angeles High School, and the health officers hope to use pop-up clinics — at pubs, churches, restaurants, doctors’ offices — to make it easier for workers, parents and other busy people to get their shots.
“We’re open to anything,” in terms of location, Locke said.
“People would like us to bring the vaccine to them, and we want to do that. We want people to tell us what their barriers are,” he added.
“We still think there are a lot of folks — restaurant workers, people in the maritime industry — who haven’t quite made the plunge,” but who can make a difference in the community’s protection from COVID-19.
Locke said he likes the Clallam pop-up sites such as the “beer and a shot” clinic at Barhop in Port Angeles.
When it comes to immunizing people, “we want to harness that creativity of the community.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.