As vaccination rate slows, restrictions may start to ease
May 6, 2021
Health officials across the nation are starting to consider widespread easing of restrictions designed to halt the spread of the covid-19 virus.
The rate of vaccination has slowed locally and nationwide, Chris Bischoff, director of Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services said Tuesday, and health officials are starting to doubt they'll be able to vaccinate enough of the population to reach a herd immunity that would stop the spread of the vaccine and its variants.
Public demand has dropped for the two-shot Moderna vaccine the county has been administering, Bischoff reported as Wahkiakum County commissioners met as the county board of health.
"I think we've reached everyone who wants to be vaccinated [in the county]," he said. "We're no longer talking about herd immunity because it's clear we're just not going to reach it."
Health officials in meetings have started to think that restrictions may be lifted sooner than expected with the expectation that members of the public will take precautions they feel are necessary to protect themselves and their families.
"As a public health professional, there is no difference in the amount of danger; it's on you," Bischoff commented.
"The hospital systems would be the concern: If they become overwhelmed, you can expect the closures to come back.
At this point, the potential early easing of restrictions isn't a proposal.
"This is just a feeling that we are getting; there have been no announcements to that end," Bischoff said later via email.
"Biden announced that he wanted to get to 70 percent by July. I'm very dubious that that is going to happen this year, much less by July.
"I've been wrong before, but my colleagues are running into the same issues across the state with running out of people to vaccinate. We should be able to go down to 12 years old soon (probably next week), and that will give us a few more vaccinations, but it won't get us anywhere near 70%."
In Wahkiakum County, 44 percent of the eligible population has had at least one injection, Bischoff said; with 38-39 percent fully vaccinated with two shots.
In the county's entire population including youth who are younger than the current minimum age for the injections, 35 percent have had one shot and 32 percent are fully vaccinated.
"That is close to the national level," Bischoff said.
Administering public health during the pandemic has taken a toll on public health officials, Bischoff commented, and many have left their jobs.
"I do really appreciate the support I've had from the board of commissioners," he said. "It's not always the same in other counties. We've lost a ton of public health directors. You all have very much had our backs."
County officials returned the thanks.
"You have gone the extra mile," said board Chair Gene Strong.
"The communication has been outstanding," said Sheriff Mark Howie.