FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 8, 2021
Heather Thomas, 425.508.4980
Preparing for a Fight Against Two Viruses
The latest on recommendations for flu and COVID-19 vaccines
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – The two-week case rate has continued to decrease slightly in recent weeks, now currently at 397 per 100,000 residents for the period ending October 2, but transmission levels are still high. Hospitals also continue to remain full, with bed occupancy running at or above 95 percent in both intensive care and general medical-surgical beds countywide. As of October 8, there were 69 beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, 18 of them requiring mechanical ventilation to breathe.
We still have ongoing staffing shortages in acute and long-term care settings, which will be further stressed by what is projected to be a potentially severe flu season, along with updated modeling that projects another increase in COVID cases in December. This is why health officials are urging everyone eligible to get both their flu and COVID vaccines now.
Flu activity was kept low last season because of vaccination, social distancing, masking, school closures and limited travel. Now that pandemic restrictions are lifting, flu has a much higher chance of spreading. We can all do our part to prevent illness and hospitalizations by getting vaccinated and continuing to practice all the standard COVID prevention measures throughout the coming months.
“We are in a very different situation than we were last fall and winter,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. “Last year’s absence of flu transmission in the community likely won’t be the case this year. While the timing and magnitude of the upcoming flu season is uncertain, Snohomish County residents can take steps today to minimize the impact locally. First and foremost, get vaccinated.”
A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone aged six-months and older, including pregnant and nursing people. For protection of healthcare system capacity, it is particularly important for healthcare workers, adults 65 years of age and older, and others with underlying medical conditions to get vaccinated. If you are 65 or older, talk to your provider about flu vaccine and other important vaccines for your age group.
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines can both be received in the same day, or even the same visit for convenience. You may visit your local doctor’s office, pharmacy or clinic event in your area. See www.vaccinefinder.org or call the Help Me Grow Washington hotline at 1-800-322-2588 (language assistance available) to find a flu vaccine location near you.
In Washington, all children under 19 can get flu vaccines and other recommended vaccines at no cost. The provider may charge an administration fee to give the vaccine. You can ask them to waive this fee if you cannot afford it. Most insurance plans, including Medicare part B, cover the cost of flu vaccine for adults.
It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you from flu. It’s best to get your family vaccinated for flu by October to receive maximum benefit, but flu vaccine is still available throughout the winter. It’s never too late to get the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine does not protect against coronavirus, colds, or other viruses that cause respiratory illness, but it does keep many people from getting the flu. Some people who get the flu vaccine may still get sick. If you do get the flu, the vaccine will help reduce the severity of your illness. It will also lower your chance of needing to go to the hospital.
You may also stop flu by covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and staying home when you're sick. Cloth face coverings or masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. If you do feel sick, it’s important to know when to stay home and when to get emergency medical care.
Latest updates on COVID Vaccines
We hit two big milestones here in Snohomish County in the last few days. The one millionth dose was administered last weekend and we reached 75 percent of eligible residents 12 and up having had at least one dose. With more than 489,000 residents fully vaccinated and another 42,000 partially vaccinated, Snohomish County has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state.
More than 13,300 doses were administered in the one-week period ending October 5. That’s more than one dose a minute for a full seven days. Every five minutes, three more people here became fully vaccinated, the data show.
“More people initiated COVID vaccination last week than in any week since mid-June,” noted Dr. Spitters. “Let’s keep that increasing trend of participation going!”
Some of this increase may also be the result of people seeking their Pfizer boosters. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Washington State Department of Health (DOH) have recommended that the following individuals should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months after they completed their vaccine series:
- People 65 years of age and older,
- People 18 years of age and older living in a long-term care setting, and
- People 50 – 64 years of age with underlying medical conditions or those at increased risk of social inequities.
Additionally, the following individuals who completed a Pfizer vaccine series at least six months ago may receive a Pfizer booster dose:
If you are eligible for a Pfizer booster, please contact your healthcare provider or local pharmacy. For help finding a COVID vaccine near you:
As the science and the virus evolves, so do policies and recommendations. Booster doses are common for many vaccines. The scientists and medical experts who developed the COVID-19 vaccines continue to closely watch for signs of waning immunity, how well the vaccines protect against new mutations of the virus, and how that data differs across age groups and risk factors.
The Food and Drug Administration is announcing two upcoming meetings of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) to discuss newly available data for the currently available COVID-19 vaccines.
On October 14, the committee will discuss an amendment to the emergency use authorization of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine for the administration of a booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older.
On October 15, the VRBPAC will discuss amending the emergency use authorization of Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine for the administration of a booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older.
Additionally, on October 15, the committee will hear a presentation from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on the mixing of different brands with booster doses of booster doses following the primary series of the three currently authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines.
There has also been increased attention on the anticipated expansion of Pfizer’s emergency use authorization to include children who are 5–11 years of age. As a reminder, there are multiple steps in the process before providers can begin administering the vaccines to this age group. Still, it is possible that COVID-19 vaccines for these ages could become available sometime in November.
The FDA scheduled an advisory committee meeting on Oct. 26 to inform the agency’s decision-making. The FDA intends to make background materials for both VRBPAC meetings available to the public, including the meeting agendas and committee rosters, no later than two business days before each meeting.
The FDA intends to livestream the VRBPAC meetings on the agency’s YouTube page (Oct. 14 meeting link; Oct. 15 meeting link; Oct. 26 meeting link), which will be viewable on the agency’s Facebook and Twitter channels; the meetings will also be webcast from the FDA website.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has a meeting tentatively scheduled for October 20-21, but an agenda has not yet been released.
Vaccinations Added to Ash Way Park & Ride
Beginning October 13, the Ash Way Park & Ride site will become a combination testing and vaccination site. The site will be offering vaccinations only on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9am-4pm. The site will be testing only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9am-4pm. Vaccines offered will be primarily Pfizer. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will be available as supplies allow. First, second, third, and booster doses will be available. Appointments are required for both vaccine and testing services. Registration for is available online at www.snohd.org/drivethru or by calling 425.339.5278 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Another vaccine and testing location will be coming online soon, with details to be announced once finalized.
In addition to the Ash Way Park & Ride dual site, testing will continue to be offered at the Everett site located at 3715 Oakes Avenue. That location is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Note that both the Everett and Ash Way locations close for one hour at 12 p.m. to allow for lunch breaks and shift changes.
A calendar with community COVID-19 vaccine clinics offered by the Health District is also available at www.snohd.org/calendar.aspx?CID=31. Vaccines at these community-based clinics are provided at no cost to patients, regardless of insurance status.