Teens can get COVID vaccine Thursday

Children 12 to 15 years old will begin getting vaccinations Thursday using Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine across the North Olympic Peninsula.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory group approved the expanded use of the vaccine early Wednesday, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup was expected to give its approval Wednesday evening.

The state Department of Health informed Washington public health districts to prepare expanded vaccinations. Eligibility expansion by Gov. Jay Inslee is expected today, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

Clallam County confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, while Jefferson County confirmed one new case, according to county public health data.

Clallam County has confirmed 64 cases so far this month, about 4.93 percent of the 1,297 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

A total of 17 cases have been confirmed so far this month in Jefferson County, about 4.18 percent of the 407 total cases confirmed in the past year, according to county public health data.

All vaccine-eligible residents younger than 18 are required to have a legal guardian either be present when they receive their vaccine or have a consent form filled out by a legal guardian for the child to be vaccinated.

Parent consent forms for Clallam County pop-up clinics will be posted at clallam.net, Berry said on Wednesday.

Clallam County has a pop-up clinic scheduled from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Lincoln High School today, and all students 12 and older within the district are welcome at the walk-in clinic, Berry said.

Clallam also has pop-ups scheduled from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on May 19 and May 26 at Stevens Middle School for district students 12 and older, as well as a clinic from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Sequim High School on May 23, Berry said.

The full calendar for pop-up clinics in Clallam County can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-ClallamPopUps.

All clinics hosted at the various schools are open only to students of that district, Berry said.

Children 12 and older also can get vaccinated at pharmacies with Pfizer’s vaccine.

The state has a vaccination locator at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov, which allows users to see where appointments are available and which vaccine they’re using.

Jefferson Healthcare has opened scheduling for clinics this coming Saturday and May 19 for those 12 and older, said Amy Yaley, hospital spokesperson.

Appointments can be made at jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine. All children 12 to 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.

The consent form for the Jefferson Healthcare clinics is made available during the appointment sign-up process, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Both health officers are glad to expand vaccinations to the younger age groups, as it will allow high schools and some middle schools to operate in a more normal capacity come fall and allow families with children 12 and older start to resume more normal pre-pandemic activities by summer, they said.

“It’s another step forward and very welcome,” Locke said. “It’s going to be a real game-changer for high schools, certainly, if we can get all high school students and workers vaccinated, it’s going to fundamentally change how high schools work and get them back to pre-pandemic days come fall.

“Vaccination is the way to get things back to normal. It’s way more than preventing a specific disease. It’s trying to return things back to the way they should be.”

Berry urged parents to get their children vaccinated.

“I always understand having caution around safety for your children,” she said. “That always makes sense.

“The key thing to know about these vaccines is that they have been extensively studied and also distributed to millions of people. So, we have really good data now on their safety and effectiveness,” she continued.

“They are safe vaccines for kids. We often think that kids don’t get severe COVID-19, and they get severe COVID-19 less often than adults, but they can still get it, and none of us want to experience our children getting gravely ill from a virus we could’ve prevented.”

Forty-one COVID-19 cases were active as of Wednesday in Clallam County, with two patients currently hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit. Jefferson County had 10 active cases Wednesday.

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 117 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Wednesday, 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.