Walla Walla County's top heath official eager for vaccine eligibility to open up

Dr. Daniel Kaminsky oversees a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds in January.

The Association of Health Care Journalists reported this month that a national survey done in December and followed up in February by media research firm SmithGeiger regarding COVID-19 vaccine attitudes showed shifts in how people are looking at vaccinations, including the following:

  • The public is increasingly eager to get jabbed — 37% of 3,046 of Americans age 18-64 said they will definitely get the shot, an increase over previous findings.
  • The number of Americans who were leaning away from getting a vaccination is declining, and skeptics are moving “up the ladder” toward getting immunized, researchers found.
  • Local news sources are deemed most reliable on the topic, while national news sources were considered unreliable.
  • The biggest motivator for getting vaccinated is a desire to “get back to normal,” followed closely by personal and family safety concerns.
  • Americans most want to hear from medical experts on this subject, and this desire for expertise translates to whose opinions people value.
  • People want the facts, without personal perspective, so they can make up their own minds.

Walla Walla County’s public health officer, Dr. Daniel Kaminsky, said local vaccination rates in different age groups and other demographics is hard to determine as getting such data is difficult.

For folks in Phase 1, Tier 1 — all people age 70 and older, plus those age 50 and up in multi-generational households — Kaminsky estimated this week there’s currently a 60-70% vaccination rate.

“Our biggest problem now is low demand due to the slow advancement of the tiers and confusion (and) complexity of the tier definitions and use of the phase finder,” he said in an email.

“The next tier to open up starts March 31. We hope this increases demand.”

By May 1, all Washingtonians age 16 and up can get vaccinated, state officials confirmed this week.

According to the Seattle Times, since vaccinations began in mid-December, 940,354 COVID-19 doses have been given and now 14.12% of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated against the illness.

The Walla Walla County Department of Community Health reported four new cases of COVID-19 for Thursday, March 25. There are 25 active cases, including two residents who are hospitalized with the illness. No new deaths were reported on its website.

The county’s test positivity rate is 0.4%.

The case count is 4,837 since March 1, 2020, including 59 deaths, local officials reported.

Washington state Department of Health is continuing to report 64 virus-related deaths in Walla Walla County.

County residents considered recovered from the coronavirus has reached 4,753.

Umatilla County Public Health reported 11 additional COVID-19 cases with no new deaths.

The county’s case total is 7,843, including 82 deaths. There were zero related hospitalizations for county residents last week.

Umatilla County is in the ”high risk” category of Oregon’s four-stage COVID-19 risk level plan.

Columbia County Public Health reported no active COVID-19 cases, and one pending test result.

Washington’s Department of Health officials said there 1,117 new COVID-19 cases and 13 more virus-related deaths.

Those numbers bring the state’s totals to 358,606 cases and 5,213 deaths.

Oregon Health Authority reported 422 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the state total to 162,806.

There were two new deaths, making the state’s death toll 2,370.

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Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.