Sequim’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts may turn out to include a camping element.
Interest in the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s vaccination clinics that opened this week was massive, with about 500 vaccines performed and about 1,500 residents turned away Thursday, according to Brent Simcosky, the tribe’s health director.
One woman who received the vaccine told Simcosky she had been isolating in her home since March.
“This is a group that wants to be vaccinated (and) we’re happy to be doing this,” he said at the clinic site Thursday.
The first person to receive a vaccine at the clinic had camped out the night before, Simcosky said. When that person received the vaccination shot “people were honking their horns and cheering,” he said.
The first clinic’s overwhelming turnout has some residents considering camping out tonight (Friday, Jan. 15) to get in line for vaccines.
The clinic is for Sequim area residents and/or Jamestown Family Health Center patients over the age of 70 on a first-come, first-served basis via a drive-through area.
Clinics are scheduled for 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16 as well as on Tuesday, Jan. 19, Thursday, Jan. 21, and Saturday, Jan. 23. However, some residents who reported getting in line by 8 a.m. were turned away, with the line to get registered crawling back to the U.S. Highway 101/Simdars Road exit.
The check-in location is in the parking lot at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., with vaccinations administered in a tent next to the James Center for the Performing Arts band shell in Carrie Blake Community Park.
“If you didn’t get into the Jamestown line (Thursday) morning, know that there are three more days for Jamestown, and also there will be more events coming soon,” said Dr. Allison Berry Unthank, Clallam County health officer.
At the site Thursday was a team of about 60 clinic staff and community volunteers helping residents fill out form receive vaccine cards in the church’s parking lot, drive to a nearby park for the vaccine and finally move to an area to be monitored for 15 minutes, with EMTs Fire District 3 nearby in the case of an allergic reaction.
Dan Orr, Fire District 3 assistant chief, said he saw about 90 vehicles lined up by the time he arrived at 6 a.m. Thursday.
“It’ll smooth out (but) for our first day, first event, I think we’re doing OK,” he said.
Overall there are about 150 people helping volunteers during the scheduled clinics, with people rotating through as needed, Simcosky said. Getting help from the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members is critical to the clinic’s operations, he said.
“The goal is to get to herd immunity,” Simcosky said.
“We can see the light at the end of a tunnel. That’s what it feels like.”
Both Jefferson and Clallam counties are in Phase 1B1 of the state’s vaccination plan. Both counties are using age restrictions primarily for the start of the new vaccination phase. Phase 1B1 includes people older than 70 and caregivers in multi-generational households older than 50. But because of limited amount of vaccine (as of Jan. 13), Clallam County has restricted vaccines to residents older than 70 and Jefferson County to residents 85 and older.
People who were in a prior phase — Phase 1A — and have not received the vaccine yet, are also able to schedule appointments at the appropriate clinic.
Vaccination clinics in both Sequim and Port Angeles this week reached capacity quickly because of the small amounts of vaccine the county has in comparison to the eligible population, Unthank said.
“We’re not going to be able to take care of everybody with this first round of vaccinations,” Unthank said.
“There will be additional events as soon as we have stable vaccine supply. So, what we are planning for whenever we can get stable vaccine supply from the state is to move up vaccine events that can vaccinate 1,000 people a day, and to do them every weekend.”
View vaccination clinic information for both Clallam and Jefferson counties at tinyurl.com/PDN-VaccineClinics.
The reason vaccine deliveries to the Olympic Peninsula are not consistent at this time is due to the state funneling more doses to areas, such as Seattle, that are behind on vaccinating the 1A group, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
Vaccine doses are still extremely limited, especially when compared to the older populations in Jefferson and Clallam counties, as more than 7,000 residents in Jefferson County and more than 9,000 residents in Clallam County are older than 70, according to Locke and Unthank.
“There’s been some confusion that people think that if we had a bigger venue or more people that we could do more, but really we can only do 4,000 (right now) because that’s all we’ve got,” Unthank said.
Clallam and Jefferson counties have moved into the next phase of vaccination, ahead of the state, while the state’s Department of Health (DOH) plans to move into the next phase in the “coming days.”
The Seattle Times noted Thursday that state officials are looking to ramp up vaccination infrastructure by helping support workplace clinics, mobile teams and pop-ups at community centers or places of worship.
Clallam County has been able to expand vaccinations largely because of help from the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which is sharing its excess vaccine, the Times noted; as a sovereign nation, the tribe isn’t bound to the state’s strict schedule.
Simcosky said the tribe is looking at what they call “strike teams” to vaccinate groups of people when vaccines are available, such as teachers.
He said while state guidelines are helpful he’d rather see individual communities have the flexibility to distribute vaccinations as needed.
The message, he said, is “let the local communities figure this out.”
When can I get my vaccination?
State officials have provided and outline for when individuals can get COVID-19 vaccinations with five initial phases:
• A1, A2
Date: December 2020
For: High-risk healthcare workers in health care settings; high-risk first responders; long-term care facility residents; all other workers at risk in health care settings
Date: January 2021
For: All people of ages 70 and older; those 50 and older who live in multi-generational homes (for example, a 55-year-old who shares a home with grandchildren)
Date: February 2021
For: People of ages 50 and older whose job puts them at a high risk of getting sick (grocery store workers, teachers, first responders, law enforcement, fire department, etc.)
Date: March 2021
For: Individuals of ages 16 and older with two or more underlying health conditions (such as Down syndrome, heart or lung conditions); people who are pregnant, have cancer and more.
Date: April 2021
For: Individuals 50 and younger who meet criteria in B2 (teachers, first responders, grocery store workers, etc.); people who live, work or volunteer in congregate living settings (prisons, group homes, those experiencing homelessness)
See a chart of the phases here: tinyurl.com/CVDphases.