As other jurisdictions struggle to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is moving right along as tribal health officials work to administer vaccines to Clallam County …
As other jurisdictions struggle to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is moving right along as tribal health officials work to administer vaccines to Clallam County residents.
Brent Simcosky, director of health services for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, said all tribal members who wished to receive their vaccinations have already been given both doses of the Moderna vaccine. And with the Tribe adequately vaccinated, volunteers are now turning their efforts to the Tribe’s neighbors.
Simcosky credited the success of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Clallam County’s vaccine rollout to a pool of more than 180 volunteers — mostly seniors — who have donated their time through the county’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
“They’ve worked in teams of 60. So one group works one week, then they take a two-week break and the next group comes in,” Simcosky said.
“They do everything from guide the cars in the vaccination tent, to lining them up in the observation area, to picking up clipboards and cleaning them up. We have a group of ladies in a tent that cleans clipboards all day,” he said.
Simcosky added that he once had to ask about joyful noises coming from the group working in the tent.
“They said, ‘We haven’t seen each other for months and this is the first time we’ve been able to get together and talk and have fun,’” he recalled.
Jamestown Family Health Clinic, Simcosky said, handles about 17,000 patients, of which more than 95 percent are non-tribal community members.
“Tribes are allowed to get vaccine inventory and help vaccinate their ‘bubble,’” Simcosky said. “We consider our ‘bubble’ to be the Sequim and Clallam County area.”
Simcosky said the group had recently distributed 1,000 doses in a single day at about 200 doses per hour. He added that as they get more of the first-dose vaccines, thousand-dose days are likely to become more frequent.
If they continue on their current trajectory, Simcosky expected to inject an estimated 29,000 initial doses of the Moderna vaccine by the second week of May.
The Jamestown Tribe’s and Clallam County vaccine distribution has been so successful, Simcosky said, that officials from Jefferson Healthcare made the trip out just to see what they’re doing right.
“They spent all morning watching us, how we do it,” he said. “They were kind of blown away, actually. We don’t mess about when we do things. It’s all about speed.”
By going low-tech in their approach, Simcosky said the group has actually been able to keep the patients flowing through much more efficiently as they administer the vaccines.
“We elected not to have computers hooked up. We elected not to have any WiFi. We basically just inject people and we fill out the forms and then we go back to the clinic and put everything into the state’s system later.”
Simcosky said that because tribes have fewer restrictions in determining how they want to distribute their vaccine allotments, they are not hindered by state guidelines that seek to precisely delineate which groups receive the vaccine at each stage of distribution. Pointing to the additional flexibility for tribes, Simcosky said they can focus on getting the vaccine into the arms of people showing up ready to receive it.
“We’re not going to waste a day because we’re trying to figure out if we’re doing teachers over 50 or under 50,” he said. “There’s only 217 of them and they’re all getting vaccinated.”
Tribal Council Chair W. Ron Allen lauded the county’s efforts to distribute the vaccine in a Feb. 11 statement.
“Jefferson and Clallam counties are doing quite well in the effort to get vaccinations out to the public, with about 16 percent vaccinated in Jefferson, and 19 percent in Clallam County,” Allen said. “Clallam County has vaccinated people at the highest/fastest rate in Washington.”
Allen noted that the Jamestown Family Health Clinic has done well in acquiring its doses of the vaccine, which he called a win for the entire East Clallam County community.
Allen attributed the clinic’s ability to administer thousands of doses to its enrollment in the Moderna vaccination program, which has been more readily available than the Pfizer and BioNTech-developed vaccine.
“Health jurisdictions are all being held back by a shortage of vaccines, not by a shortage of staff or capacity,” Allen added. “The short notice prior to vaccine shipments makes it difficult to schedule vaccination clinics ahead of time. The good news is that this bottleneck should clear by late March, with distribution channels improving and new vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and Astra Zeneca most likely being approved.”
Snowy weather on Saturday canceled another round of second-dose vaccinations through the Jamestown Family Health Clinic.
The clinic will hold second-dose vaccinations between
9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18 and Saturday,
Feb. 20 at Carrie Blake Park in Sequim.