Health officials across the North Olympic Peninsula are scheduling Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children 12 and older in anticipation of authorization expected in the next few days.
The federal Food and Drug Administration approved the expansion of the emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds on Monday.
Before the vaccinations are offered on the Peninsula, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory board will need to approve it as well, followed by Gov. Jay Inslee expanding state eligibility, officials said.
The CDC advisory board will meet Wednesday to discuss the change, and Inslee is expected to approve it soon afterward, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.
“We are very excited about the approval for 12- to 15-year-olds,” Berry said. “I think there are a lot of parents who will be very excited for this news.”
“It can really help whole families get back to more normal life,” Berry said. “It also sets us up to getting back to more normal schooling this fall.”
Clallam County confirmed three new cases Tuesday. None were connected to recent super-spreader parties but instead to prior confirmed cases, Berry said.
Jefferson County confirmed one new case Tuesday. It was a contact of another confirmed case, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
Clallam County has confirmed 60 cases so far this month, about 4.64 percent of the 1,293 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.
A total of 16 cases have been confirmed so far this month in Jefferson County, about 3.94 percent of the total 406 cases confirmed in the past year, according to county public health data.
Clallam County Public Health officials have plans in place for the new age group to get vaccinated. Pop-up clinics are planned at various schools starting this week, pending the full approval, Berry said.
“We’re ready on our end as soon as they give full approval,” she said.
Once the younger age group has been deemed eligible, parents who want to have their children vaccinated can reach out to their school districts for specific plans if they haven’t already received information, Berry added.
Local pharmacies may also have Pfizer’s vaccine. The state has a vaccine locator for all COVID-19 distributors at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.
Clallam County had vaccinated 58 percent of residents 16 and older with at least one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as of Saturday, with 52 percent of that population fully vaccinated. Of the total population, 49 percent had initiated vaccination as of Saturday, with 44 percent fully vaccinated, Berry said.
Jefferson County had vaccinated 69.07 percent of residents 16 and older with at least one dose as of Saturday, and 59.48 percent of that population was fully vaccinated. Of the total population, 61.43 percent had initiated vaccination as of Saturday, with 52.91 percent fully vaccinated, Locke said.
Jefferson Healthcare has opened scheduling for clinics this coming Saturday and May 19 for anyone 12 and older. If the vaccine is not approved by Saturday, those appointments will be canceled, said Amy Yaley, hospital spokesperson.
Appointments can be made at jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine. All children of ages 12-17 are required to be accompanied by a legal guardian or have the original patient acknowledgement form signed by a legal guardian. No photographs, copies or over-the-phone consent will be accepted, Yaley said.
Locke urges all eligible people to get vaccinated as soon as possible if they haven’t already. He expects restrictions will start to be lifted significantly starting in June, and that may pose a risk to those who are not vaccinated.
“The risk for people who are unvaccinated is going to go up; their exposure risk is going to go up,” Locke said. “A lot of the people who are unvaccinated don’t really understand that they’ve been protected from exposure by all these extraordinary emergency things we’ve been doing while trying to control this infection.
“Now is the time to get vaccinated. Anybody who is on the fence needs to make a decision and move forward. It takes time for the vaccine to have its full effect, so you want to start now so, when things really open up in June and July, you’ll be protected.”
Forty-five COVID-19 cases were active as of Tuesday in Clallam County, with two patients currently hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit. Jefferson County had nine active cases Tuesday.
The Peninsula has had 12 deaths related to COVID-19, with nine in Clallam County and three in Jefferson County.
Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category with a case rate of 121 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday, while Jefferson County is in the moderate-risk category with a case rate of 62.7 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.