County case count hits 107; clinic set for this Saturday
April 15, 2021
Editor’s note: The print edition incorrectly states that the county health department will hold a vaccination clinic on Friday. The clinic will actually be on Saturday, April 17. We most sincerely regret the error.
By Rick Nelson
Wahkiakum County's covid-19 virus caseload increased by two this past week and now totals 106 effective Tuesday; on Thursday another case was added to boost the total to 107.
Chris Bischoff, director of Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services, said Monday that the two individuals were in quarantine.
Neighboring Cowlitz County has 5,212 cases, and Pacific County, 817. In Oregon, Clatsop County has just under 1,000, Bischoff said, and Columbia County has around 1,500.
Wahkiakum County remains in Phase 3, while increasing caseloads have pushed Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman counties back into more-limited Phase 2, effective this Friday.
The number of cases has been increasing across the state, Bischoff said in his regular Monday morning conference with county department heads, but the number of hospitalized patients has been going down.
The rising number of cases indicates a possible fourth wave of infections, but the increasing number of vaccinations seems to be slowing that wave, Bischoff said.
"I think we'll see hospitalizations go up, but not as bad as before," he said. "Vaccinations are helping. If we can get people to get vaccinated, we'll move out of this."
The county is offering a vaccination clinic this Saturday at the Hope Center in Cathlamet. Any Washington resident age 18 years or older is eligible. Interested persons may phone the health department at 360-849-4041 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., for an appointment. Staff will administer the two-dose Moderna vaccine.
People interested in helping at the clinic are needed; volunteers should call the same number above.
New vaccine concern
The county will join other jurisdictions across the country in not administering the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine because of concern it may cause dangerous blood clots.
On Tuesday, federal agencies announced that cases of potentially severe blood clotting have occurred among people receiving the single-dose J&J vaccine, and they've recommended suspending application of that vaccine until they have a better understanding of the relationship between the vaccine and the clotting.
The county health department administered just under 100 doses of the J&J vaccine at a clinic last Wednesday in Rosburg. The county will not administer any more doses of that vaccine until cleared by state and federal agencies.
According to a Tuesday report from the Washington State Department of Health, the incidence of clotting from the J&J vaccine is low. Symptoms show up approximately 2-3 weeks after receiving the shot.
The report says, "About 149,000 doses of J & J vaccine have been administered in Washington so far, out of more than four million doses total. At this time, we have no knowledge of the six patients [all women under age 50] who experienced these blood clots being Washington residents.
"For those who got the vaccine more than a month ago, the risk of this complication is very low at this time. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider. It also demonstrates how well the robust vaccine safety monitoring systems work, since this potential safety concern was identified quickly and vaccines were paused to allow for further investigation."
Bischoff said the county has just five doses of the J&J vaccine on hand; they will be stored until the department receives new direction for their use.
State DOH reports that the county has administered 2,574 doses; 35% of the population has had at least one dose, and 27% of the people are fully vaccinated.
The rate of vaccinating county residents has slowed; the county won't order new first doses--limited to 100 per order--for another week to collect names of people needing shots.
Surplus vaccine will be shared with other jurisdictions.
"I'm not sitting on vaccine where people are clamoring for it elsewhere," he commented.
The Family Health Center in Cathlamet is also providing vaccinations; that clinic has evening hours that compliment the health department's daytime events.
"Our goal is to get 100% of our population vaccinated," Bischoff said. "We need folks to come forward."
The clotting concern identified with the J&J vaccine has already been identified with the European AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine, and countries around the world have paused in using it.
The vaccine has been associated with clotting that has been identified in 222 cases coming out of 34 million shots, Bischoff said; 18 persons died, and the rest recovered.
In comparison, a covid-19 infection will cause clotting in 20% of the cases, Bischoff said, and 31% of covid-19 patients in intensive care units have blood clots.
"It (AZ) is still an incredibly safe vaccine," Bischoff commented. "Many nations have banned it outright, but as a public health guy, I'd say you're doing your people a disservice."
Vaccine proving to be safe
People who have been hesitant to be vaccinated should be reassured, Bischoff said, for the vaccines have proven to be very safe and effective.
He reported that, last October, he and other regional health officials discussed the development of vaccines, which had been very quick, and they were concerned about their safety. Since then, he said, they've seen that all the steps and reviews conducted in vaccine development have been followed.
"No steps have been skipped between this vaccine or any other vaccine or medicine you take," Bischoff said. "It was very quick; they took the focal power of the light of the world's scientists and shined it on one thing.
"As for safety, every day, more and more people get vaccinated; it's highly effective, and I hope that raises people's comfort level.
"It's a very safe vaccine; it's looking more and more safe all the time. The numbers are huge."