Peninsula sees high demand for flu vaccinations

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, pharmacies and health care providers are seeing the highest rate of flu vaccinations in years on the North Olympic Peninsula, health officers said.

While it does not protect against COVID-19, Peninsula health officers have been urging residents to get vaccinated for influenza, so hospitals would not be inundated with both COVID-19 patients and flu patients.

“What we’ve heard from pharmacies is that they’ve gone through significantly more vaccine than they have in past years,” said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

“We’ve spoken to multiple pharmacies — because that’s really who does the most of the vaccinations in our community — and across the board they say that they’ve never given this many vaccines by this point in the year.

“That’s really promising. When it comes to the flu vaccine, we want everyone to get it, but especially we want to build kind of a circle of immunity around anyone who is vulnerable to flu,” she continued.

“So, if you have a family member who recently had a child, it’s important for everyone to get vaccinated, or if you live or interact with someone who is elderly or has chronic conditions, those are all situations where we really strongly encourage getting the influenza vaccine.”

Both counties still have vaccines available, although supply slimmed earlier in the month and in September due to demand, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, on Tuesday.

“We had some glitches in supply … but a lot of it had to do with a lot of people wanted to be vaccinated early this year,” Locke said.

“The demand for vaccinations was unexpectedly strong in September, whereas the supply system was geared to start making the vaccine more available in October and early November.

“But those things have caught up.”

Flu vaccinations are available through hospitals and primary care clinics, the county public health departments — although Jefferson County’s public health department is providing only child vaccinations this year — and at most commercial pharmacies.

Both health officers continue to work with the public school districts on COVID-19 policies. So far, all is well with no cases or transmissions, Locke and Unthank said.

Some Clallam County schools are eyeing adding more grade levels into the schools, but the specific plans vary from district to district, Unthank said.

“It really seems that the school administration, the teachers and the kids are getting used to the system, and it’s becoming more and more normal,” Unthank said.

“So the plan is for school districts to add additional grades in the coming weeks, the amount of the additional grades depends on specific school districts.

“But, we’re quite hopeful it will continue to go well.”

Unthank continued to urge residents to limit unnecessary travel to other areas both in state and out of state.

Recent cases in Clallam County have been primarily driven by out-of-county exposures, and both Jefferson and Clallam counties have lower case rates than other areas in the state and nation.

Five new cases of COVID-19 were discovered in Clallam County on Wednesday, four of which were household contacts of prior confirmed cases, and the fifth was attributed to out-of-county transmission, Unthank said.

The new case rate for Clallam County is 29 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks, placing Clallam in the state’s moderate-risk category of 26 to 75 cases per 100,000, Unthank said.

There have been 284 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Clallam County since March, with 13 active cases, two patients currently hospitalized and one death, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County held steady on Wednesday at 87 confirmed cases since March, with four active cases and no deaths, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.