By Joanne Rideout.
COVID-19 vaccines will soon be more available than ever in Clatsop County. Officials hope that will help reverse a trend toward fewer people seeking a vaccine, even though the county is still far from the herd immunity needed to stop the pandemic.
At a Clatsop County Vaccine Task Force meeting on Friday, Incident Commander Chris Laman said vaccine numbers for older residents are looking good. As of last week, about 84 percent of residents over 70 are now completely vaccinated.
Overall, the county remains at 24 percent fully vaccinated, as of Friday. Officials say 70 percent is needed for herd immunity. Herd immunity is when a large part of the population of an area is immune to a specific disease. If enough people are resistant to a virus or bacteria, it has nowhere to go.
The county is now targeting residents over 18, and officials are waiting for doses of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in May, so they can administer that to young people 16-17 years old. Pfizer filed Friday for FDA emergency approval to administer the vaccine to kids 12-15.
While Pfizer vaccine offerings through the county are pending, Fred Meyer is currently the only local pharmacy that offers the Pfizer vaccine. Laman said the county will soon have access to an ultra cold freezer through Providence Seaside Hospital that’s capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine at its recommended long term storage temperature.
One troubling note about local vaccine efforts: Laman said that while most people who get a first dose return for the second one, the county is seeing a slowdown in younger people signing up to get their first dose.
The re-approval of the Johnson & Johnson one shot vaccine last week may help improve that situation, also the county will begin in May to offer vaccine events from 5-7 pm, to increase access for people ages 18-50 who work. The county will now also reschedule a vaccine event in Jewell that was canceled during the Johnson & Johnson hiatus. That vaccine was temporarily put on hold, while regulators assessed its safety, after a tiny percentage of patients developed blood clots. Friday, the FDA released the vaccine with a warning about the potential for rare blood clots for women under age 50.
Last week, the county vaccinated local cannery workers with the Moderna vaccine, in a group event at the fairgrounds, and because this event occurred during the temporary ban on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they will now need to receive a second shot. Laman said that likely would involve the county going onsite to the canneries to administer second doses.
Laman said there have been no breakthrough COVID cases in the county, breakthrough meaning people who have been vaccinated and still caught the virus.
During the month of May, the county will transition to a system where people can sign themselves up for appointments through the county website, instead of waiting for a call back after filling out a survey online. In June, there should be enough vaccine available to offer walk-in vaccines at local hospitals and also vaccine availability at doctors offices so patients can schedule a shot with their physician.
Overall, Laman said Clatsop County is doing well. It’s running 8th in vaccination rate compared to other counties in the state. Laman urged residents to get their shots. He said hospitalizations locally and in Portland are spiking, as variants cause more cases in younger people