Vaccines on the way for youngest kids

Local providers in Washington can now administer the vaccine as soon as they have it in stock.

Editor’s Note: Read COVID updates by VashonBePrepared in Spanish and English at tinyurl.com/yan39zeh.

Vashon COVID Monitoring: Substantial Drop in Cases

The latest Vashon COVID wave has gradually been diminishing. New cases reported by Vashon residents on the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps helpline dropped each week over the three weeks ending June 17. However, weekly calls to the MRC helpline are still four times the early March rate, when the major Omicron spike ended. Our community is not yet back to its previous low level of COVID infections, so keep masking and testing, and assess risks before attending a gathering.

Vashon case counts are tending to fall more quickly than those on the mainland. The King county case rate remains over 300 cases per 100,000 population per week, and hospitalizations are up, and King County remains in the CDC yellow/medium risk category, whereas the case rate on Vashon is roughly half the rate in King County as a whole.

The MRC estimates of the island case rate are developed by a multi-layered monitoring program. The MRC tracks the official statistical dashboard maintained by Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC), the COVID dashboard posted by Vashon Island School District, test data from Vashon Pharmacy, and your reports to the MRC helpline. Please continue to help MRC track island COVID trends by reporting your positive home tests to the MRC helpline: (844) 469-4554.

Hot Topic: Vaccines for Under-5s Are Coming Soon

On Sunday, June 19, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup confirmed their finding that COVID vaccines for children aged six months to five years are safe and effective. This follows the emergency use authorization given by the FDA on June 17, and CDC director Rochelle Wolensky’s endorsement last Saturday of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendation for this age group.

Local providers in Washington can now administer the vaccine as soon as they have it in stock. In the next newsletter and Beachcomber editions, we’ll provide a roundup of local vaccine availability for this youngest group and more details about its safety and efficacy.

Coming Home: No COVID Test Required

No more running around on your last day overseas to get that COVID test. The CDC lifted the requirement that air travelers to the U.S. show a negative COVID test the day before departure to enter the States. Another advantage of this new rule: There’s less cause for stress about getting stuck overseas.

The flip side of this change is that your chance of sitting near an infected person on an international flight has gone up. So, to minimize your chances of getting COVID, wear a mask on international and domestic flights, and in airports.

Your Safe Homecoming Checklist

We know from more than two years of contact tracing by our Vashon MRC that a high percentage of cases on Vashon resulted from travel. That number may rise again, now that international air travelers no longer need to show a negative COVID test before returning home. So, here’s a checklist to help you avoid spreading COVID to your household and your Vashon neighbors when you get back from a trip.

Take a rapid-antigen test on days 3, 5, and 7, or if any symptoms arise, after you get home. This applies if your travel included situations with a greater risk of exposure, such as being in crowded places while not wearing a well-fitting N95 mask.

Quarantine if you learn that you were exposed during travel as a close contact of a person with COVID. It might have been a friend or relative who attended a special event.

Monitor yourself for COVID symptoms. Have you developed a sore throat, cough, runny nose, body ache, or any other signs? Don’t assume “it’s nothing” – take a test and quarantine until you’re sure you don’t have COVID.

If you test positive, isolate to protect others from getting infected. Don’t go to school, work, or the store. Wear a mask when around uninfected family members. Don’t share rooms if that’s possible at your house. If sharing a bathroom, air it out and disinfect surfaces between uses.

Call the MRC helpline: (844) 469-4554 if you have questions or a positive test result.

Myth Buster: What Does “Immunity” Really Mean?

Recent studies have shown that having had COVID confers significant immunity against reinfection. However, those same studies also show that immunity from either infection or vaccination wanes over time, either because the body’s immune response fades, or because the virus changes, or both. Studies are now showing the best (but not 100%) COVID protection is hybrid immunity, where an individual gets vaccinated and boosted and also recovers from COVID. It’s still far safer being vaccinated and boosted first, to reduce the risks of hospitalization or death.

“As a general rule, people who have had COVID gain a lot of protection, the obvious drawback being the fact that you have to survive COVID to develop that natural immunity. Survival and avoiding long COVID are not a sure thing for many people, especially among the aging Vashon population,” MRC expert Dr. Ina Oppliger explained. “Certainly, getting COVID intentionally is not a good strategy. Each new COVID variant evolves to be better and better at dodging all types of immunity, from infection and vaccination-based. The good news is that so far the vaccination/booster combination is still quite effective at preventing severe disease and death.”

“Here’s the most important thing to know. Natural immunity and current vaccines can’t give you perfect protection, and the protection that current vaccines provide isn’t permanent,” Dr. Oppliger emphasized. “There are lots of new and different vaccines under development, so we may one day be able to more completely protect people over a longer term. But for now, to be as safe as possible, get fully vaccinated and stay boosted.” If you recently had COVID, the CDC recommends you complete your quarantine period before getting your vaccine or booster. Here’s the CDC’s quarantine calculator: https://tinyurl.com/quarantine-calc.

Latest Vashon COVID Statistics from the King County dashboard

Source: Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) and Vashon Emergency Operations Center. New and historic case counts shown here reflect test results from the public health reporting system which does not capture results from home tests.

9= New cases reported since the last weekly report (30 new cases in 14 days)

968= Total COVID cases for Vashon residents since the pandemic began.

17 = Patients hospitalized since the pandemic began.

5 = Deaths since the pandemic began.

93.9% = percentage of Vashon residents age 5+ who have completed the primary series, compared to 86.2% of the King County 5+ population.

67.8% = percentage of Vashon residents age 5+ who have added a booster shot to their completed primary series.

For King County, the PHSKC dashboard for the last 30 days says people who are not fully vaccinated are:

1.3 times more likely to get COVID.

6 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID.

13 times more likely to die of COVID.

For more resources, visit VashonBePrepared.org or visit the group’s Facebook page. Sign up at tinyurl.com/4smk364m to receive email updates.