Share your why: The path to pandemic’s end

Word-of-mouth builds community immunity

A straightforward conversation can make all the difference in ending the pandemic, doctors across the state said this past week.

“If you’ve been vaccinated and you know people who are on the fence, talk to them,” Lacy Fehrenbach, Washington state’s deputy secretary for COVID response, said in a state health briefing.

“Sharing your why,” as it’s called — giving your reasons for getting the shot — is one of the most powerful ways out there to build community immunity, she added.

Vaccine uptake has begun to slow across the North Olympic Peninsula and beyond, noted Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County’s health officer. In his briefing to the county Board of Commissioners last week, he called on employers and other individuals to speak up about the importance of immunization.

Word of mouth works, Locke said: “Vaccinated people telling their unvaccinated friends: ‘It’s not so bad,’” to have a day or two of post-vaccination fatigue and headache.

“And it opens doors,” he said. A vaccinated population means freedom to travel, carefree socializing, safe workplaces — and parties and weddings this summer.

Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County’s health officer, spoke on Friday about three gatherings — of mostly unmasked and unvaccinated people — that led to 14 COVID infections and 100 people sent into quarantine. Those events would have turned out much happier had attendees gotten their shots in advance, Berry said. She added that her team is ready to bring vaccines to employers, churches — and for that matter, people’s households.

“We’ve done hundreds of home delivery vaccinations,” Berry said.

“If you have someone in your life who wants to get vaccinated, but can’t because of a mobility issue or a developmental disability that makes it hard to access the vaccine, let us know. And we’re happy to bring it,” she said. Berry urged people to use Clallam’s COVID hotline, 360-417-2430. More information is also found at clallam.net/coronavirus.

Locke and his team are also looking for ways to ease access to shots across Jefferson County. Vaccination sites are listed at jeffersoncounty publichealth.org under the COVID-19 quick link, and information is available by phone at 360-344-9791.

“This shot is not about you. It is about what we can do to protect the community,” epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist, said during the state briefing. “I personally got the vaccine not for myself. It protects my family. It protects my friends.”

Sixteen months in, the vaccine is the safe pathway out of the pandemic, added Dr. Umair Shah, Washington state Secretary of Health.

Yet “people are shying away from it,” he said.

“That’s really concerning.”

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

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