By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD – Kitsap County health officials have scheduled clinics in Port Orchard and Bremerton so that young people can get their COVID-19 vaccine shots.
Getting the area’s young people who are ages 12 and older vaccinated is the immediate goal of county health officials as Gov. Jay Inslee moves to reopen the state’s economy by June 30.
Adolescents ages 12 to 15 became eligible last week to receive Pfizer vaccine under an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Those 16 and older became eligible in the state for the coronavirus shot on April 15. Now, every Washington resident 12 or older can get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is exciting news for our community, especially as COVID-19 cases are on the rise among teens in Kitsap County,” said Kitsap Public Health District Health Officer Dr. Gib Morrow.
“More Kitsap families can now be protected and help slow the spread of a virus that has disrupted schools and workplaces, and continues to put lives at risk,” Morrow said.
County Commissioner Robert Gelder believes getting young people vaccinated is key to the county getting back to some semblance of normality.
“There isn’t a single demographic of the population that hasn’t been at risk of contracting and spreading the virus,” Gelder said. “Getting the green light to administer vaccines to a younger cohort is vital for reaching the ultimate goal of reopening and reopening safely.”
The decision to vaccinate younger individuals came only after appropriate testing, health experts said.
“The recommendations were made based on evidence from a clinical trial that found the Pfizer vaccine was safe and extremely effective for preventing COVID-19 among children as young as 12,” health district officials said.
The clinical trial found that Pfizer vaccine demonstrated 100% efficacy in preventing COVID in 12- to 15-year-old participants, officials related.
Clinics for youths
The health district is offering vaccine appointments to young people 12 and older at clinics in Port Orchard and Bremerton. The district is slated to also hold a clinic in Poulsbo later this month.
The health district clinic at Christian Life Center in Port Orchard will run from 1-3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, and from 10-11 a.m. on Friday, May 21. In East Bremerton, the clinic at St. Michael hospital will be open from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, and from 2-4 p.m. on Friday, May 21.
District officials indicate their clinics will continue to take place on at least a weekly basis. Later this month, a health district clinic is expected to be held in Poulsbo, with dates and times to be determined.
Appointments are available and walk-ins are welcome at these clinics, health district officials said.
There are several other locations, in addition to the health district clinics, where young people can roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. Certain pharmacies, major grocery stores and some schools also offer vaccination opportunities. A complete list of vaccination locations is at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.
At this point, Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for youths. Still, other pharmaceutical companies are seeking to serve this age group. Moderna officials have indicated their company’s early study results of vaccinating those under 18 are promising. Novavax has also kicked off a study of its vaccine for those under 18.
In a related matter, Morrow sent an open letter to healthcare providers in Kitsap County, thanking them for their efforts during the pandemic and stressing the need to keep up their good work. He also stressed the importance of making COVID vaccines available to all age groups in all healthcare settings.
“Vaccines are available and abundant. Let’s give them. If we can administer vaccinations in schools, offices, brewpubs, ferry lines, transit centers and farmers’ markets, we can certainly give them in doctors’ offices, clinics, emergency departments and hospitals,” Morrow wrote.
“Now we need to finish the critical work of vaccinating the rest of our community,” he said.
Nearly 50% of Kitsap County residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 41% of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, Morrow indicated.
In Kitsap County, 1,162 — or 15% — of the 7,975 COVID cases reported to date involved residents 18 or younger, according to the health district. Over the last month, residents ages 12-18 had the second-highest COVID-19 case rate. There were seven COVID outbreaks connected to schools and childcare centers in the community, according to district officials.
Those younger than 18 must receive consent from a parent or guardian to be vaccinated at the health department clinics. Children ages 12-15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Side effects of vaccinations reported by participants in the 12-to-15 age group were similar to those commonly reported by adults, including a sore arm, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain, according to national and local health officials.
To learn more about vaccinations for young people, visit the county’s health district website at kcowa.us/vaccine. To book an appointment, visit kphd.timetap.com.