PACIFIC COUNTY — After a fast and furious initial rollout that saw thousands of residents roll up their sleeves, the covid-19 vaccination pace in Pacific County continues on what’s been a gradual, months-long slowdown.
With mass vaccination clinics a thing of the past due to waning demand, officials with the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department are shifting their focus this summer to making access to the vaccine more convenient for the segment of the population who are still unvaccinated but not opposed to getting the vaccine.
Since the spring, providers have been holding smaller vaccine clinics throughout the county. In south county, Ocean Beach Hospital continues to hold clinics at the Ilwaco Timberland Library, and Peninsula Pharmacies has held clinics in both Ilwaco and Chinook. Now, according to county health director Katie Lindstrom, plans are underway for providers to bring the vaccine to the people.
“Our nurses are going to be working over the course of the summer to do probably one pop-up event a week somewhere throughout the county,” Lindstrom said. “We’re never again going to have 400 people at a clinic, we know that.”
One thought, for example, is to have a pop-up clinic at the Pacific County Fair in Menlo in August, as well as a host of other festivals and events over the next several months. The department also plans to have a pop-up clinic at Peninsula Poverty Response’s Project Community Connect on July 13 at Long Beach Elementary School.
“I think the group of people right now who are left to be vaccinated are probably people who are just looking for something very convenient,” Lindstrom said. “We do think that’s kind of our next group to really focus on: the people who aren’t averse to the vaccine and are planning to get it, but it’s just not high on their priority list.”
Other than scheduled festivals and events, the department is also looking at places with lots of foot-traffic — such as grocery stores, pharmacies or the Ilwaco Saturday Market — to hold a pop-up clinic.
Lindstrom recalled taking her daughter to get her second vaccine dose at Fred Meyer in Warrenton. While her daughter had an appointment, she said there were a handful of people who walked up without an appointment and were able to get their first shot in just a matter of minutes.
“We don’t have that same situation here, where people are shopping at Fred Meyer, Costco or Walgreens [which are grocery and retail stores with their own pharmacy] and go ‘Oh, I need to get my shot.’ We just don’t have that, but we’re going to try and kind of recreate that in different settings throughout the county.”
The county health department also hopes to soon receive vaccination data broken down by zip code for the county, Lindstrom said. The data will help the department to know which areas of the county are doing well when it comes to getting vaccinated, and which areas are struggling and may need to receive more outreach.
As of June 26, 48.7% of all Pacific County residents have received at least one vaccine dose, up from 45.3% a month ago. About 44.4% of the county’s total population is deemed as fully vaccinated, up from 39.9% over the previous month. A total of 22,897 doses have been administered in the county, up from 21,081 doses a month ago.
Reopening commences statewide
On June 30, Washington reopened fully for the first time since early 2020, with most pandemic restrictions being lifted.
With the reopening comes the end of capacity limits at most public spaces, such as venues like restaurants, bars, churches, movie theaters and stores. Capacity had previously been limited to 50% of a building’s maximum occupancy, as part of Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.
While most restrictions have been lifted, health officials are reminding that mask requirements are still in effect for those who are unvaccinated when they are out in public. Fully vaccinated people can forgo masks in most indoor settings and all outdoor settings, with the exception of hospitals, schools and public transportation.
And while new cases of covid-19 continue to decline in Pacific County because of vaccination efforts, Lindstrom said the virus — including the fast-spreading Delta variant — still poses very real risks to those who remain unvaccinated. Among the county’s unvaccinated population, the case rate per 100,000 people over 14 days remains high.
Ahead of a busy July 4 weekend, Lindstrom said the guidance for unvaccinated people hasn’t changed much throughout the course of the pandemic. Those who are unvaccinated should still not be socializing with people outside of their household — and if they do, they should wear masks.
“If you’re [unvaccinated and are] around other people who are vaccinated, then that socialization can look a lot different and you can do that in a safer way. But honestly, if you’re unvaccinated, the advice hasn’t really changed a lot,” Lindstrom said. “It really hasn’t become safer for unvaccinated people.”