The news about the rising COVID-19 cases in the Wenatchee Valley is staggering.
The Chelan-Douglas Health District reported as of Sept. 14, there have been 99 deaths related to COVID-19 in the two-county area. As of Sept. 12, there were more than 14,700 cases detected. Local hospital systems in North Central Washington, and across the state, continue to be stretched thin with surging COVID-19 cases.
According to a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who were not fully vaccinated this spring and summer were more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19, than those who were fully vaccinated.
We know the best way to fight this virus is for everyone 12 years and older to get vaccinated, as well as maintain physical distancing and use facial coverings in public. However, for many of our fellow community members, it is still difficult to get vaccinated. For parents without childcare, individuals with limited transportation, and those without vaccine information in preferred languages, we have neighbors facing barriers to getting a much-needed vaccine. As a community, we have a responsibility to identify and work together to remove these obstacles.
Now is the time to do all we can to ensure equitable vaccine access for all those eligible. Believing that creative solutions and partnerships is a path to bring vaccines to communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, Premera Blue Cross has teamed up with Walgreens, the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce, Forterra, Inc., and other partners to bring vaccine clinics to address barriers to access.
Within our local partnerships, we identified locations, days and times that best work for the communities we’re serving. Our efforts focus on bringing vaccines to individuals and families already gathered for other priority activities in their day. We are in neighborhoods, at work sites or local community centers. Other groups have hosted clinics at places of worship, food banks and community colleges. Neighbors are welcomed at these walk-in clinics by culturally competent staff and volunteers who can also help with language assistance if needed.
In fact, the next clinic will be held at the Wenatchee Valley Community Job Fair hosted by the Wenatchee Downtown Association and the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce. The job fair and clinic will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at the Wenatchee Convention Center.
Also, with school back in session, this is the ideal time for all children 12 years and older to make sure they have received their vaccine against COVID-19, according to CDC guidelines. For parents and caregivers who have questions or concerns that make them unsure about having their children vaccinated, trusted voices within the community are needed to help distribute accurate information and answer questions to specific concerns.
As much as we are all ready to move on, the coronavirus is still with us, and the pandemic is still continuing. We need to continue to creatively remove barriers to vaccination so that every eligible individual for the COVID-19 vaccine can get one without difficulties. Until then, be well informed, follow the guidelines, stay healthy and protect those around you.
Dr. Josephine Young is medical director for Premera Blue Cross.