PACIFIC COUNTY — Booster shots against covid-19 are coming soon to a clinic near you, but local officials are urging patience as they prepare to offer an additional level of protection to those most vulnerable to the virus’ most devastating effects.

With the sign-off from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, the Washington State Department of Health announced Sept. 24 that the state was beginning immediately to offer booster doses of the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine to eligible individuals. County health director Katie Lindstrom stressed patience as her department and local vaccine providers work to get their ducks in a row before local booster efforts ramp up.

What to knowAs it currently stands, booster doses are being offered to certain individuals who must have received their second Pfizer dose — not a second Moderna or single Johnson & Johnson dose — no earlier than six months prior to getting this third dose. Individuals who completed the initial two-dose Pfizer vaccine series, are immediately eligible and should receive a booster dose include:

• People 65 and older;

• Residents in long-term care facilities;

• People 50-64 years old with underlying medical conditions, such as cancer, chronic kidney or lung disease, dementia, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, liver disease, obesity, or pregnancy.

• Individuals who completed the initial two-dose Pfizer vaccine series, are immediately eligible and may receive a booster dose include:

• People 18-49 years old with underlying medical conditions, based on their individual risk;

• People 18-64 years old who are at increased risk for covid-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting, such as health care workers, teachers and grocery workers, based on their individual risk.

Lindstrom said the county health department expects to announce a plan this week for when and how local vaccine providers will go about offering booster doses to those who are eligible. Any announcements about booster doses will be made on the department’s Facebook page (Pacific County Public Health & Human Services Department) and at www.pacificcountycovid19.com, where a list of all upcoming vaccine clinics is also available.

Additionally, people can sign up to receive vaccine updates via email from the department by filling out the form at tinyurl.com/zym8uhtc. Lindstrom stressed that people are not signing up for a waitlist by registering to receive email updates on local vaccine plans and efforts. The emails will detail when, where and which providers will be offering booster doses, and how to schedule an appointment.

OBSD pauses fall sports seasonOn Sept. 27, the Ocean Beach School District informed students and parents that it was postponing all high school and middle school athletic activities for this week.

The district said that it has seen an uptick in covid-19 cases in its athletic programs at both Ilwaco High School and Hilltop Middle School. Practices and competition are planned to resume next Monday, Oct. 4, OBSD said, and that the district “will do everything we can” to reschedule competitions that had to be canceled this week.

Lindstrom said cases have been identified in virtually all Pacific County schools since the school year began about a month ago. She said it’s not clear how much transmission is actually occurring in schools, but said there was evidence that cases are being tied to sports teams.

Hospitalizations keep comingThe number of cases being reported in Pacific County may be down slightly from the previous week, but the number of people being hospitalized by the coronavirus continues unabated. As of Sept. 27, 98 people in the county have been hospitalized by covid-19 since the pandemic began, including 10 new hospitalizations reported just in the past week.

The county is likely to hit 100 hospitalizations in the coming days, thanks to a stunning surge over just the past couple of months. The county has reported 51 new hospitalizations — more than half of its total — since July 28, after recording 47 hospitalizations in the first 16 months of the pandemic.

Another county resident has also passed away from complications due to covid-19, Lindstrom said on Sept. 27. The individual, who was in their 70s, is the 28th person in Pacific County to die from the virus. The county’s total is higher than that of neighboring Clatsop County, which has a population twice the size of Pacific County but has recorded two fewer deaths to date.

From Sept. 21-27, 90 more cases of covid-19 were reported in the county, bringing the pandemic total to 1,838 cases. At the current pace, Pacific County could cross 2,000 cases sometime over the next two weeks. After taking 14 months for the county to hit 1,000 cases, it will likely take fewer than six months for it to reach another 1,000 cases, even as more than half of the county population is at least partially vaccinated against the virus.

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