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‘It’s not always opposition to the vaccine:’ Board of Health Chair Derek Young knows removing barriers is key for many.

Derek Young is a sports fan. He knows how much a rabid crowd cheering on the home team means to a community. 

“During the pandemic, sports for me have been an escape,” he said. “Like the one normal thing when sports started coming back. And I know for kids, that was a big loss to have sports disrupted.” 

Young is also the Chair of both the Pierce County Council and Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health. As such, he’s acutely aware of how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives. 

“We all want to get back to as normal as possible,” he said. “The surest path to that is getting vaccinated, and right now, while things are spreading quickly, wearing a mask.” 

Last week Director of Health Dr. Anthony L-T Chen issued a mask order requiring everyone 5 and older to wear masks in crowds of 500 or more. On Sept. 7, the Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, Kraken, Huskies and Cougars all announced vaccine requirements to attend games. 

Take me out to the ball games!

Young is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Tacoma Rainiers game Tuesday, Sept. 14. It’s something he’s never done before, and he’s not promising a strike. 

“I would not expect a fabulous pitch,” he said with a chuckle. “I actually have a pin in my wrist, so sometimes the ball goes where I want it to and other times my hand decides differently.” 

The uncertainty could make for an entertaining show. 

“If you want a good laugh,” he said, “come watch me throw out that first pitch. I can almost guarantee I will provide it.” 

Young graduated from Gig Harbor High School. As much as he’s embraced the return of spectator sports, he knows youth participation in sports could be even more valuable. 

“There’s very few things when you’re a teenager, a middle schooler or high schooler, that you own,” he said. “You’re still a juvenile. But sports are one of those things.” 

High school football made an abbreviated return in February and is back to its regular schedule this fall.  Young is happy to see it, but he’s also wary because of the recent rise in cases and hospitalizations. 

“Not having a Fish Bowl would be a travesty,” he said about the yearly rivalry game between Peninsula and Gig Harbor. “I hope we get things back under control, if not for anybody else, for our young people who need those things growing up.” 

Casual and Connected on the Key Peninsula. 

Young shares a satellite office with the Health Department in Key Center, which is trailing other areas in COVID-19 vaccination rates. He’s familiar with the community, having grown up in the area, and he tries to spend time there to talk to folks as much as possible. 

“I think that’s one thing about the Key Peninsula, is people really value that face-to-face interaction,” he said. “It’s good that we’ve been able to do that.”

 The Health Department provides more of those personal interactions at our Casual and Connected clinics. We’ll have medical professionals on hand Fridays into October at the Key Center office from 3-7 p.m. to provide answers about the vaccine and a dose if you want it. Young hopes it will make a difference.

“We’ve got a lot of people now that have those lingering questions,” Young said. “For them, hearing from either someone in clinical care or public health is great.” 

Find your dose. 

Whether you live on the Key Peninsula or elsewhere, access, time and convenience are still keys to getting many folks vaccinated. 

“It’s not always opposition to the vaccine,” Young said. “I was ready to walk over broken glass to get mine and yet it still took me about a week-and-a-half before I found time that was going to work.” 

Young said the County Council is encouraging employers to give staff time off to get vaccinated. He also understands transportation issues and health insurance worries. It’s important to know the vaccine is safe, effective and free, he said. You don’t need insurance or ID. Find your dose at

If you need a ride to an appointment or can’t easily leave your home, we can help. Call us at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week. 

Your role to stop the spread of COVID-19 remains critical.