There is good news on the vaccine front. In the ongoing war against COVID-19, Clark County has launched a significant offensive this week.
But while progress is being made, the truth remains that a vaccine is only as effective as the number of people willing to receive it.
National public opinion polls have indicated increasing interest in vaccinations; a Gallup survey from mid-February found 71 percent are willing to receive shots, up from 65 percent in late December. Those numbers must continue to climb if our communities are to reach the widespread immunity required to tamp down the disease.
For Clark County residents, the process should become easier.
On Monday, Clark County Public Health announced the county would receive more than 14,000 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, along with nearly 9,000 second doses. (Vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna require an initial shot and later a booster shot; a newer vaccine from Johnson & Johnson requires one dose.)
Initially, county officials expected about 12,500 total doses this week, and state Department of Health spokesperson Shelby Anderson said officials would continue to “work with Clark County Public Health and providers to get them additional vaccines” next week.
In previous weeks, as detailed by the local health department, Clark County had received far fewer doses per capita than many of the state’s counties. Dr. Alan Melnick, the county’s public health officer, worked with local legislators and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler to highlight the disparity and advocate for improved equity.
With an increase in available vaccines, questions then turn to the region’s ability to get those vaccines in the arms of residents. So county officials announced Tuesday that they will open a second large-scale vaccination site.
A new drive-thru facility at the former Tower Mall location in central Vancouver is expected to serve about 600 patrons per day. It joins a state-run site at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, near Ridgefield.
“The Tower Mall site makes COVID-19 vaccine more easily accessible and provides an opportunity to serve members of our community who are often medically underserved,” Melnick said.
Thus far, there is no shortage of local interest in the vaccine. County officials have a waiting list of about 20,000 residents who are seeking appointments. For information about vaccinations and to submit a request, visit the Clark County Public Health COVID-19 vaccine webpage — or call 888-225-4625 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The development of vaccines for a previously unknown disease — one that has contributed to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States — has provided heroic examples of American ingenuity. Pushed by Operation Warp Speed, launched by President Donald Trump, and assisted by President Joe Biden’s use of the Defense Production Act, the U.S. finally is making progress against COVID-19. Biden said Tuesday that there will be enough vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May.
Yet in an age when many people embrace false information regarding vaccines — even those that have been in use for decades — doubters will remain. In researching the coronavirus vaccine, make certain to seek out facts from reliable sources rather than social media. It is an important part of helping our community overcome the lingering pandemic.
Locally, thanks to the work of health officials, there is hope for continued progress.