Whatcom County Health Department officials say they’ve seen a decrease in Covid-19 vaccine demand within recent weeks, but it’s too soon to know the reason.
In an email to The Northern Light, the health department said it first noticed vaccine appointments didn’t fill as quickly as usual during the April 17 community vaccine clinic it helps run at Bellingham Technical College. By the April 24 clinic, organizers were unable to fill appointments.
“We anticipated there would be a slowdown from that immediate need for vaccine,” Amy Hockenberry, health department vaccine planning lead, said in a recent media conference. “But we don’t have enough information and we’re early in this shift to know what the reasons are that people are not getting vaccinated at the same frantic pace they were in the first four months.”
Health department director Erika Lautenbach said in the conference it was also too soon to know when Whatcom County could reach herd immunity, but she hoped the county could reach 80 percent of the population fully vaccinated by the end of the summer. Much of herd immunity will hinge on reaching vulnerable populations and understanding the slowdown for vaccine demand, she said.
Whatcom County has had a total of 8,242 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic and 318 probable cases (8,560 total cases), according to May 3 Washington State Department of Health (DOH) data. Two people died from Covid-19 in the past week, which brought the county’s death toll to 91. The percent of deaths per total confirmed cases is 1.1 percent.
The Blaine school district was the only school district in the county to decrease in Covid-19 case rates. The school district decreased from 404 cases per 100,000 people last week to 296 cases per 100,000. Lynden and Meridian school districts had the highest case rate increases.
A Whatcom County Health Department spokesperson said the previous spike in Blaine’s case rate was because of two outbreak events and not from a general increase in community spread. Citing HIPAA, the health department declined to provide more information on the outbreaks.
The county should receive at least 3,940 first doses of vaccine this week, although this number is not final and is likely to increase. Last week, Whatcom County received at least 12,490 first doses.
About 32.5 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated and 44.8 percent have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the department. The department reports that 74,129 county residents are fully vaccinated and 102,102 residents have received their first shot.
Statewide, 5,587,640 vaccine doses have been administered. About 31.2 percent of people in Washington are fully vaccinated and 38.9 percent have received one dose.
Washington state has had 378,225 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic and 30,382 probable cases (probable cases come from an antigen test). In all, 5,528 people in Washington with the virus have died as of May 3 and 22,556 have been hospitalized.
For more Whatcom County information, visit whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine and whatcomcounty.us/coviddata. State information is available at bit.ly/3r2URJj. Vaccine locations can be found at bit.ly/3nZiMqr. For CDC data, visit bit.ly/39Kt4qh.