Three die from COVID-19 in Clallam County

Health officer: Misinformation still being circulated

Three deaths from COVID-19 were reported from the weekend in Clallam County, bringing the total to 77 in the county since the beginning of the pandemic.

Two of the deceased were in their 80s, both reportedly vaccinated but had not received boosters, said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

One had underlying medical conditions, and the other was living in a long-term care facility, she said.

“We, unfortunately, do see deaths in vaccinated people, but this is a good time to speak to the relative risks,” Berry said. “Your risk of dying due to COVID-19 if you are unvaccinated is 14 times higher than if you are fully vaccinated, but it does still happen, and especially with the rise of the delta variant, we are reminding everyone of the importance of getting boosted, especially our elder population.”

The third deceased person was in their 90s and unvaccinated.

Despite vaccination rates above 60 percent in both Clallam and Jefferson counties, there is still an abundance of vaccine misinformation, Berry said.

“It is really hard to counter vaccine misinformation, especially when you hear it from a friend,” Berry said. “And I think that’s part of the challenge is that a lot of the misinformation that you hear is shared as if it’s truth; it’s shared with conviction so it can make you question.”

Many of the questions Berry addressed Monday before the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners pertained to stories circulating on the internet, in predominantly anti-vaccine groups, about otherwise healthy people — usually athletes reportedly having cardiac events and those events being tied to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is actually a piece of misinformation,” Berry said.

“There is a Facebook news story that’s been circulated pretty widely in anti-vaccine groups that quotes a German article that says dozens of (soccer) players have recently suffered cardiac conditions,” she said. “Trouble is, that’s not what the article actually says. It cites a few players that have had cardiac arrests recently, but it’s not because of their vaccines. Most likely, hypertrophic cardiac myopathy, which is very common in athletes.”

Berry said the COVID-19 virus can exacerbate that condition, further underlining the need for vaccines.

“Interestingly, one thing that is actually leading to cardiac events in young athletes is COVID-19 itself,” she said. “There was a large study in May of this year that looked at 1,600 athletes from Big 10 universities who had contracted COVID-19, and among them, 2.3 percent had developed significant myocarditis from COVID-19.”

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Berry said the No. 1 cause right now is COVID-19.

“The biggest risk to your heart right now is COVID-19 or other underlying issues that we’ve known about,” she said. “The vaccine is not leading to cardiac disease.”

A similar story appeared online in the Port Townsend Free Press, which Berry stated was misinformation.

The story reported a 27-year-old woman had suffered a heart attack soon after her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, leaving her with acute myopericarditis, inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.

Berry said while she could not confirm or deny the reported patient’s experience, there has been only one case of myocarditis reported in Jefferson County, and it was a mild case.

“In Jefferson County, we have delivered about 50,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines; about 25,000 have been second doses. Among all of those, we have had one case of myocarditis.”

“Generally, those cases of myocarditis related to the vaccine are mild. Most are self-limited and resolve on their own and don’t need significant treatment, and have no long-term disability.”

By the numbers

Clallam County currently has a case rate of 292 per 100,000 a totaling at 5,488 cases since the pandemic began. In terms of hospitalizations, there are seven people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county.

Jefferson County’s COVID-19 death total remained at 20 on Monday, when two people were hospitalized with the disease. As of Monday, the case rate in the county was at 165 per 100,000 with a total of 1,358 cases since the pandemic began.

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