Vaccination of young ‘opens options’

Peninsula health officers urge all get shots

A vaccine to protect children age 12 and older from COVID-19 is on the near horizon — with federal safety data expected in the next few weeks, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County Health Officer.

“We are very hopeful,” she said Friday, about immunizing the 12-and-up youngsters and then, with summer authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 and up, seeing children return together to school in the fall.

High levels of vaccination will make a major difference in the life of students and the wider community, added Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County Health Officer.

In particular, he added, if high school seniors are fully vaccinated by the time they graduate this June, “it opens up a lot of options” for them.

Currently everyone 16 and older is eligible for vaccination in the United States — and unlike some other places in the country, the North Olympic Peninsula has a plentiful supply of the shots.

To find a site in Jefferson County, see https://co. jefferson.wa.us/ and click on “COVID-19 updates” at the top of the page or phone 360-344-9791; in Clallam, visit clallam.net/coronavirus or phone 360-417-2430. People who are homebound or without transportation are encouraged to call their county’s emergency operations center number to arrange delivery.

“Now is the time,” Berry said, adding that every person immunized is a step closer to the end of the pandemic.

On Saturday, Clallam County saw nine new cases of people diagnosed with COVID-19, reaching a total of 1,284 reported cases since the response began. Berry noted the new cases were “mostly household contacts of recent cases,” which numbered 115 people since mid-April. That was when three super-spreader events took place in the county. Two parties and a wedding, with mostly unvaccinated and unmasked guests, infected adults and many children.

In Jefferson County, 12 people have tested positive so far this month, bringing the total to 402 reported cases since the arrival of the pandemic. The age group suffering the largest number — 76 cases — is people under 19.

In addition to vaccination sites at Chimacum High School, Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend and at local pharmacies, Jefferson County has two school-based clinics for students age 16 and older and their parents.

These will be open at the Chimacum School District Multi-Purpose Room, 91 West Valley Road, on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and then at Quilcene High School on Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Appointments can be made on the Chimacum School District website, csd49.org, or by phoning 360-344-9791 weekdays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

In addition, Jefferson Healthcare will administer the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic especially for 16- and 17-year-olds this Saturday, with second-dose appointments Saturday, June 5. For details, see jeffersonhealthcare.org.

In Clallam County, the North Olympic Healthcare Network, the Jamestown Family Health Clinic and Port Angeles High School’s clinic are among the sites providing good access, Berry said.

“Nearly all the pharmacies in town vaccinate, and there is basically no wait,” she added.

A pop-up clinic for restaurant workers — but open to everyone, Berry said — is set for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at Barhop, 124 W. Railroad Ave., Port Angeles.

Last week, a Clallam County man in his 40s, who was otherwise healthy, died of COVID-19. He was the 12th person on the Peninsula known to be killed by the novel coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic.

The man’s death was a tragic reminder, Berry said, that younger people aren’t free from life-threatening illness.

Jefferson County has documented 145 people age 30 to 49 infected with COVID-19. In Clallam County, 575 people, from their 20s through their 40s, have become infected with the disease. COVID has also spread to another 275 children and teenagers in that county.

Four of Clallam’s daycare centers have seen children infected, Berry noted, adding that safety protocols such as masking and social distancing are particularly hard in those settings.

If you’re a parent of a child in daycare — as she is — it’s crucial to minimize the risk of transmission in all other areas of your life, she said.

The way to do that, Berry said, is to get vaccinated — while masking, distancing and keeping gatherings outdoors are still important.

She also strongly recommended that pregnant women get immunized against COVID-19. The vaccine protects both mother and unborn child, Berry said, adding the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are best for expectant mothers.

As a recently pregnant person, Berry added, “I would not bat an eye at getting vaccinated in pregnancy.”

In Clallam County, 42 percent of the population is fully vaccinated while 50.66 percent of Jefferson County’s population has been fully immunized. This degree reduces the risk of a surge in hospitalizations, Berry said, but there aren’t yet enough vaccinated people to stop the coronavirus’ spread.

“We are still seeing high rates of transmission in our community,” she said.

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

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