Peninsula counties leading vaccine efforts: Jefferson tops state, Clallam at 57 percent

Jefferson County has reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the state for second-dose COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible residents, Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Sunday.

Sixty-eight percent of Jefferson County citizens who are 16 and older had received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine, and 57 percent were fully immunized, tops among the 39 counties.

“We’re No. 1 in terms of fully completed,” Locke said in a Sunday interview.

“A lot of that has to do with we got a really early start.”

San Juan County, which had three National Guard mass vaccination events in the past month, was leading the state in first-dose vaccinations for eligible residents. Nearly 70 percent of those 16 and older San Juan County had received at least one shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, Locke said.

Clallam County isn’t far behind the state leaders in the race for COVID-19 immunity.

As of Friday, 57 percent of eligible Clallam County residents had received a first dose and 50 percent were fully immunized, Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said.

“Those are good numbers,” Berry said in her weekly COVID-19 briefing Friday.

“We have certainly seen them start to plateau a little bit, and so we are really encouraging folks if you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, now is the time.”

Both counties have large supplies of COVID-19 vaccine.

To find a site in Jefferson County, see co.jefferson.wa.us and click on “COVID-19 updates” at the top of the page or phone 360-344-9791.

In Clallam County, 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.

Jefferson County had no new COVID-19 cases reported Sunday, Locke said. Jefferson County has had 402 cases since March 2020.

Clallam County had 1,284 reported cases in its pandemic response as of Saturday.

Berry had no new numbers to report Sunday because she gave her staff the day off for Mother’s Day.

“I’m still on call for emergencies,” Berry said in a Sunday text message. “No emergencies to report.”

In her Friday briefing, Berry said children 12 and older were expected to become eligible for the Pfizer vaccine within the next two weeks.

“We are likely to get approval for Pfizer for (children) 5-and-up sometime this summer, which means likely going into the fall, we could have all of our school-aged kids available for vaccination,” Berry said.

Jefferson County health officials also are planning to roll out vaccinations for younger populations.

“We want to be able to do that efficiently when that becomes available,” Locke said.

“We’re going to have to do a lot this summer to get ready for the school year and to try to make it a more normal school year.”

Locke attributed Jefferson County’s high vaccination rates to its early planning, demographics and participation from hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.

Jefferson County has the oldest population in the state with 37 percent of its residents 65 and older, the first group to become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“They’re also the group with the highest percentage actually wanting to get vaccinated, an excess of 85 percent,” Locke said.

“So that high percentage of seniors in Jefferson County is one of the reason that we’re a little higher than other counties.”

Vaccination of young ‘opens options’

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, Berry said.

“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.

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

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.

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 1-4 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 30-49 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.”

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