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Hospitilzations higher in 0-59 age group, vaccine clinic traffic getting slower

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - Hospitalizations are on the rise for ages 0-59 years of ageCrook County has made major strides in vaccinating its adult population, particularly its seniors.

But vaccinations rates nationwide and locally are beginning to slow at a time when COVID-19 is starting to have a larger impact on younger residents.

According to Crook County Health Department officials, recent data show that prior to the COVID-19 vaccine's arrival in Crook County, hospitalizations were more common among those ages 60 and older, while people ages 0 to 59 had zero known hospitalizations related to COVID-19. Now that people are getting vaccinated, health officials are seeing a decrease in the number of people being hospitalized who are 60 and older and an increase in hospitalizations for people 0 to 59.

"We have gotten a good share of our senior population in to get their vaccinations – not everyone but probably 70%," said Vicky Ryan, Crook County's emergency preparedness coordinator. "Overall, we only have about 40% fully vaccinated – the majority of that 40% is our senior population."

According to multiple reports, vaccinations rates are slowing down throughout the country. Locally, the public vaccination clinic that once offered inoculations by appointment only, due to significant demand, has been open to walk-ins during the past few weeks. Ryan attributes the change in part to hesitancy coupled with a more relaxed approach to getting the vaccine among younger residents, but she noted that Crook County's time in the lowest risk category may have been a factor.

"My evaluation of it is we went back to lower risk, things were starting to open back up, people were starting to get relaxed and then (say) 'Oh, this is finally over – we don't need to get our vaccine,'" Ryan said.

Crook County returned to the high-risk category on April 30, at a time when COVID-19 vaccines are as plentiful as ever in the community. Local pharmacies and primary care clinics are now providing the Pfizer and Moderna two-shot vaccines, and after a brief pause following some rare cases of blood clots, the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine became available in Crook County. In addition, this past Tuesday, the local public clinic opened its doors exclusively to 16- to 18-year-olds to receive a Pfizer vaccine.

"We are getting Pfizer from Mosaic Medical," Ryan said. "They have some extra doses."

During the past week, the number of new cases in Crook County has been declining, but they have not dropped low enough for that metric alone to trigger a change in risk categories. However, Crook County and 14 others transitioned back to the "high" category Friday because the percent increase in total number of patient bed days recently dropped below 15%.

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