Clatsop County teenagers under 18 will soon be eligible for vaccination against the coronavirus at county clinics.
All Oregonians 16 and older became eligible for vaccination on Monday. However, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine approved for 16- and 17-year-olds. The only place in the county that administers the vaccine is the Fred Meyer pharmacy in Warrenton.
The county’s vaccine task force anticipates Pfizer doses will be available through the county the week of May 10. The task force is developing a plan for vaccination events. Parents can call the county’s public information call center beginning Monday to register their 16- and 17-year-olds.
Pfizer has requested emergency approval of its vaccine to be administered to children 12 to 15. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to give authorization in mid to late May. The county task force is preparing to vaccinate children 12 to 15 at that time.
“As we get into where we’re using the Pfizer vaccine, and making it available to 16- and 17-year-olds, and then probably younger people, we do anticipate that a lot of parents are going to want to come at the same time and get vaccinated with their kids,” said Chris Laman, the director of pharmacy and cancer center services at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, who is leading the county’s vaccine task force.
“The Moderna vaccine, the first dose is given and then the second dose is given 28 days later. With the Pfizer vaccine, the first dose is given and then the second dose is given 21 days later. So it would be really inconvenient for a parent to get a different shot than a child if you’re going to try to keep both of them on the same schedule. So we do anticipate that we’ll have Pfizer clinics where children and parents can come together and get the shot.”
Laman said the goal is to have evening and weekend clinics to accommodate family schedules.
Virtual listening sessions
Laman joined Margo Lalich, the county’s interim public health director, along with local doctors and Clatsop Community Action to discuss vaccine plans and answer questions from the public on Wednesday and Thursday evenings via Facebook and Instagram.
The county plans on hosting the virtual listening sessions in English and Spanish over the next few weeks.
Laman said the listening sessions are to answer questions and hear feedback on how the task force can improve outreach to younger people.
The county had about 300 spots at vaccination clinics that went unfilled over the past week. Laman said the task force is careful in the way it draws up doses, and will use the 300 unused doses at clinics in the coming week.
The task force anticipates the Food and Drug Administration will allow use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines to resume. The county still has doses of the one-dose vaccine and plans on administering the vaccine to people who have difficulty getting to regularly scheduled vaccination clinics.
About 40% of people in the county have had at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the task force, and 87% of residents 70 and older are fully vaccinated.
As of Friday, 25,675 vaccine doses were administered in the county, and 9,440 people were fully vaccinated. The county’s goal to reach herd immunity against the virus is vaccinating 27,533 people.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kate Brown on Friday warned counties of tighter restrictions to come in light of a fourth surge of the virus across Oregon.
“In the race between vaccines and variants, the variants are gaining ground and have the upper hand,” Brown said during a press conference. “Today’s cases topped a thousand, with Oregon now ranking second in the nation for having the most rapid growth of infection spread. Our doctors and nurses are once again overwhelmed. Our hospitals are about to surpass 300 patients who are positive for COVID-19, crossing the threshold to place several of our counties into extreme risk.”
The governor said the state will analyze the data again early next week to see which counties may need to move into extreme risk. If necessary, she said she will cancel the warning week, moving the counties into extreme risk on Friday.
“Please know this is not a step I take lightly,” Brown said. “However, it could be the last time we need to impose this level of restrictions, given our vaccination trends and the virus’s behavior.
“Vaccines are the absolute key to moving Oregon forward. The overwhelming majority of our new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are people who have not yet been vaccinated. We are seeing younger Oregonians in the hospital now, as well as people who had no underlying health conditions.
“I do think with all of us working together that we can get to a place where we lift most restrictions and fully reopen our economy no later than the end of June. Common-sense safety measures like mask wearing and maintaining 6 feet of distance will need to stay in place. We all need to make smart choices over the next several weeks so that we can move forward and into post-pandemic life.”