PORT ORCHARD — The first case of COVID-19 linked to the Delta variant was identified in Kitsap County this week, according to Dr. Gib Morrow, health officer of the Kitsap Public Health District.
This variant is more transmissible than the Alpha variant from the U.K., which was already more transmissible than earlier COVID-19 strains.
With the variant spreading to the county, vaccination is key to combating the virus and saving lives, Morrow said. “These are all reasons to really do everything you can to get everybody to be vaccinated,” he noted.
The health district was notified of the presence of the Delta variant in the county after the Washington State Department of Health performed genome sequencing on the sample. Morrow said this test is conducted when there is a concern that a positive case of COVID-19 may be one of the variants currently circulating.
This more transmissible variant tends to “elbow out” other subtypes of the disease, which was seen in March and April across the state with the Alpha variant. Currently, the Delta variant accounts for about 40% of cases statewide, Morrow said. This number could actually be higher since it takes weeks for the virus to be sequenced.
Because of this, even though the first case was identified just this past week, Morrow said there are likely other cases already circulating within the county. He said vaccines are the way to combat the spread of COVID-19, including for these more transmissible variants.
“There really is an urgency to [vaccinate people] primarily because of the evolution,” Morrow said. “This is a highly mutable virus. It’s evolving in new and somewhat unpredictable ways.”
With school starting back in just a few weeks, families can do their part by vaccinating their children who are 12 and older. Morrow described the vaccine as a tool that can safely allow kids to return to school and their normal activities.
“The primary reason for [students] to get vaccinated is because they have borne the brunt of this whole pandemic,” Morrow said.
From the social isolation of not seeing friends at school to missing out on playing in school sports or going to the high school prom, middle- and high-school students have weathered a difficult year of homeschooling to combat the spread of the disease.
Students who are unvaccinated and become infected with COVID-19 can pass the disease on to classmates, who could expose their families, causing more community spread. For students who are vaccinated, if they are exposed to a case of COVID-19, they will not have to quarantine. Morrow said getting vaccinated not only protects their health but allows them to continue regular activities, even in the event of exposure.
Individuals 12 and older are approved to get the Pfizer vaccine and students who start school on Sept. 1 should get their first dose of the vaccine by July 28 so they are fully inoculated for school. Those who start Sept. 8 should get their first dose by Aug. 4.
For individuals 12 and older, the real-life effectiveness of the vaccine is on par with clinical-trial results that have found it to be more than 95% effective. The vaccines also can prevent severe illness, hospitalization or death as a result of the virus, Morrow said.
Gov. Jay Inslee recently held a webinar where he invited licensed medical professionals to participate in the Power of Providers campaign, wherein any medical professional can answer questions about the vaccine and ultimately administer the shot to those not yet vaccinated.
Vaccine locations in Kitsap County can be found on the Kitsap Public Health’s vaccine clinic webpage, or through the vaccine locator provided by the state Department of Health. In the coming week, vaccinations will be available at the following locations across the county:
Sunday, July 18:
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. walk-up clinic for Moderna shots, Fathoms O’ Fun Wheels Car Show at 425 Mitchell Ave., Port Orchard
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. walk-up clinic for Pfizer shots, Seabeck Farmers’ Market at 15565 Seabeck Hwy. NW, Seabeck
Monday, July 19:
1-4 p.m. walk-up clinic for Pfizer shots, Manchester State Park at7767 E Hilldale Rd., Port Orchard
Tuesday, July 20:
1-4 p.m. walk-up clinic for all three vaccines, Barber Lounge at 717 Pacific Ave., Bremerton
Thursday, July 22:
3:45 to 5:45 p.m. walk-up clinic for Pfizer shots, East Bremerton at 2520 Cherry Ave., Bremerton
Friday, July 23:
1-4 p.m. walk-up clinic for all three vaccines, Ten Ten Beauty Supply at 3569 Wheaton Way, Bremerton