The Tri-Cities is lagging the state in getting booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with the rate in Franklin County particularly low at less than half the rate for the state of Washington.
The Washington state Department of Health has released its first look at the number of people who have received booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccination and the number of children ages 5-11 who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The state says 15% of children in that age group in the state, or 101,100 have gotten at least an initial dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the only one approved for them.
Data by county is not available for COVID-19 vaccine for children. But it has been released for vaccine booster doses.
It shows 13% of people statewide have gotten a booster dose since Aug. 13.
That percentage drops to 11% in Benton County and 6% in Franklin County.
That compares to 9% in Yakima County and 15% in Walla Walla County.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
The COVID-19 booster dose is an additional shot given months later to boost immunity as the vaccine becomes less effective at preventing infection or milder illnesses with symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, protection remains high against severe disease and hospitalization, the CDC said, citing data from small clinical trials.
“Just having a booster dose does not at all imply that the prior series was somehow suboptimal,” said Dr. Seth Cohen in a UW Medicine video report on vaccine boosters. “It just makes it more effective.”
Booster doses are common in other vaccine series, including tetanus, he said. Third doses are given for the hepatitis B and human papilloma virus vaccines.
But even more important than increasing the number of people getting a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is increasing the number of people receiving their initial doses, he said.
“The only way out of this pandemic is to increase the number of first doses,” he said.
Tri-Cities vaccine rates
Statewide 67% of people have received at least an initial dose of COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 56% of the people in Benton County and 51% in Franklin County.
Cohen cited King County data that shows that for people in the same age group those who are not fully vaccinated are eight times as likely to test positive as fully vaccinated people.
Unvaccinated people are 44 times more likely to hospitalized and 55 times more likely to die from COVID-19, he said.
“To me those numbers are eye-popping and should take away any skepticism that people have about the effectiveness of the vaccines,” he said.
Benton and Franklin counties also continue to lag the state in the percentage of people who are fully vaccinated.
In Benton County 51% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and in Franklin County 45% of the population is fully vaccinated.
That compares to 61% of residents in the state, and both counties lag Yakima County at 52% and Walla Walla County at 55%.
On Nov. 20 booster shots of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine were approved for all Washington state residents ages 18 and older spaced at six or more months after completing their initial doses of the vaccine.
Earlier they had only been approved in the state of Washington for certain adults, including those 65 and older and people ages 18 and older with underlying medical conditions or who work in high risk settings, including schools, factories and grocery stores.
Booster doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine were earlier recommended for adults two months after the initial dose.
“Now that boosters are available to all adults, we hope everyone will take advantage of them,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Protect yourself, your loved ones, your co-workers and your friends.”
COVID-19 vaccine is widely available in the Tri-Cities area at pharmacies, clinics and medical offices, with no cost for the vaccine.
Go to the Washington state Department of Health’s link at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov and enter your zip code to find places offering the vaccine.