PACIFIC COUNTY — With covid-19 vaccines now readily available to those who want them, local health officials are working to saturate Pacific County communities with pro-vaccine outreach.
The push comes as worries grow in the county and throughout the state about rising cases, with Gov. Jay Inslee saying at an April 22 news conference that data shows Washington is entering a fourth wave of the covid-19 pandemic.
County health director Katie Lindstrom said variants that originated in places such as the United Kingdom and California are likely fueling the surge in cases. With cases rising, she said now is a critical time for vaccination efforts to continue full steam ahead.
“The variants are sort of becoming the prevalent strain that are going around,” Lindstrom said. “And they are more contagious than the original strain. The virus is fighting back.
“We have this opportunity right now to really get people vaccinated and get out ahead of it, and it’s hard because some people are hesitant. Everyone definitely has a right to make their own personal decisions regarding vaccines, but it feels like there’s this window of opportunity and I don’t want it to close.”
The local vaccine push has slowed down in recent weeks — not due to a lack of supply, but a growing lack of demand. Doses were administered to hundreds of people a day at mass vaccine clinics earlier in the year with a waitlist into the thousands, but some recent smaller clinics have struggled to fill up a majority of the available time slots.
From Jan. 27 through March 27 — when supplies were more scarce — an average of 219 vaccine doses were administered in Pacific County on a daily basis, according to state Department of Health data. From March 27 through April 24, an average of just 107 doses were given in the county per day.
To address the drop-off in interest, Lindstrom said the county is working to implement several outreach efforts. One plan involves healthcare providers mailing out a letter to established patients, attached with a business card that details how to schedule a vaccine appointment. Others involve putting up banners in communities urging people to get vaccinated, as well as advertising locally.
The department is also focused on trying to improve vaccine equity, something Lindstrom said has been a struggle at both the county and state levels. In particular, the county is focused on increasing outreach with the county’s Hispanic population, she said, by reaching out to people such as community and church leaders.
With Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine now approved for use again, vaccine providers are also trying to continue to reach the county’s homebound population. The county began vaccinating some north county homebound residents with the J&J vaccine, and planned to continue those efforts in south county before J&J’s vaccine was put on pause.
On Monday, the county received a list of homebound residents from the state, but Lindstrom estimated that they were only able to schedule one appointment for every 10 people they called, whether it be due to the phone number being out of date, the person not actually being homebound, they were already vaccinated or they didn’t want the vaccine.
The county is planning to launch an outreach push eyeing the homebound population within the next week, urging people to call the county to schedule an appointment as well as reaching out to churches and organizations such as Home Health and Meals on Wheels for referrals.
Cases plateau, appointments available
Pacific County’s surge in new cases has leveled off, for the moment. As of April 26, the county health department reported 19 new cases over the previous week for a total of 953 since the pandemic began, with 28 cases currently active throughout the county.
There have been 74 new cases over the past 14 days with a case rate of 342 over that same time, down slightly from 360 a week ago. There have been 34 covid-related hospitalizations, up two from last week. Statewide confirmed covid-19 cases totaled 368,557 on April 19, with 21,950 patients hospitalized and 5,450 fatalities reported since the pandemic began.
Vaccine providers are hosting a pair of clinics in south county this week. Ocean Beach Hospital is hosting a first-dose Pfizer vaccine clinic on April 29 at Ilwaco Timberland Library, and afternoon appointments were still available as of the Observer’s press time. Visit https://tinyurl.com/2narssjr to make an appointment.
On April 30, Peninsula Pharmacies is hosting a first-dose Moderna clinic at the Chinook School & Event Center. Visit https://www.covidvaccine360.com to schedule an appointment.
For a full list of upcoming vaccine clinics in Pacific County, visit http://www.tinyurl.com/paccoclinics.
As of April 24, 17,644 vaccine doses had been given in Pacific County, up from 17,084 doses a week earlier. About 29.6% of county residents have been fully vaccinated so far. Statewide, 5.16 million doses have been given, up from 4.67 million doses a week ago.