Third doses of COVID vaccine for those at risk in works

Health officials hope to finalize plans by next week for providing third doses of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines to residents with suppressed and/or compromised immune systems.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved modifying the emergency use authorizations for the two messenger RNA vaccines for immunocompromised people last Thursday.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, said plans are being finalized now.

“Each of our clinics and our hospital system are working on their own plans on vaccinating their patients,” she said. “So, specifically looking at things like the cancer center and those plans should be in place and operational by next week.

“The hope is that pharmacies will also start offering this without a prescription. That is one of my primary goals.”

More information on third doses for immunocompromised residents will be released when it becomes available.

Clallam County confirmed nine new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, while Jefferson County added 12 new cases, according to county public health data.

Clallam County has confirmed a total of 317 COVID-19 cases so far this month, while Jefferson County has confirmed 93 cases in August.

The case rate in Clallam County decreased slightly on Tuesday, dropping to 382 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday, according to public health data.

Jefferson County’s case rate is compiled weekly, and its rate was 235.11 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.

The more contagious delta variant is the dominant strain among new cases on the North Olympic Peninsula, as genetic sequencing has showed about 80 percent of new cases being delta, Berry has said.

A one-day drop in a case rate is too early to determine if cases are starting to slow.

Berry expects the case rates will continue to increase over the next two weeks at least, as it takes about two to three weeks for mitigation measures, like wearing face masks indoors, to start to make a difference in slowing transmission, she said Monday.

Berry continues to urge residents to wear face masks and practice social distancing when in public indoor spaces. She also continues to urge all eligible unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

“I would encourage all of our citizens to use precautions in their daily life at this point,” Berry said. “We’re seeing more COVID transmission in our community than we ever have.

“Now is a really good time for all of us to get back into the habit of COVID precautions that we did so well back in the beginning of the pandemic.

“If you can do something remotely — like a meeting — you should. We all should be avoiding crowded indoor environments unless everyone in there is fully vaccinated.”

A total of 22 people have reported as having died from COVID-19 on the North Olympic Peninsula — 19 Clallam County residents and four Jefferson County residents.

One of the Jefferson residents was the only fully vaccinated person to die from the disease on the Peninsula, and that person was “profoundly immunosuppressed,” Berry said.

Berry stressed that people who are at high risk for COVID-19 complications, vaccinated or not, should avoid crowded indoor spaces, and everyone in those spaces is required to wear a face mask as a result of her masking order that went into effect on Monday.

While Berry hasn’t seen full compliance with the order yet, she said she’s noticed a significant improvement on the number of people wearing face masks in public spaces, she said Tuesday.

Berry and other health officers in the state are considering implementing capacity restrictions on large indoor gatherings as an additional mitigation to prevent transmission of COVID-19, she said.

Clallam County has confirmed a total of 2,027 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Jefferson County has confirmed a total of 609 cases.