by Carolyn Bick
The City of Seattle has been approved to become a vaccine distributor, and, as soon as Thursday, Jan. 14, will start distributing vaccines to adults living and working in adult family homes via two mobile vaccination units staffed by the Seattle Fire Department. The fire department is the first EMS agency in the state to be approved to become a vaccine administrator.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan made the announcement in a press conference on Jan. 12, saying that the mobile units — which will specifically focus on residents and staff of adult family homes who are not covered by the federal program to vaccinate people living and working in adult family homes — are just the beginning of the City’s vaccination efforts. The vaccines will be provided at no cost to recipients.
Durkan said that the only reason the City is unable to more quickly start vaccinating more people is because of a limited vaccine supply, calling the situation “deja vu all over again” in a reference to how, at the outset of the pandemic last year, the country experienced severe shortages of both testing supplies and personal protective equipment. She said that the City is in talks with the incoming Biden administration to get more doses of the vaccine as soon as possible, at which point it can expand vaccinations using the same model it has been using for testing sites. This expanded model will likely be created with input and assistance from community partners and healthcare providers who tend to reach older adults who may be unable to access the vaccine through traditional healthcare models.
Seattle Fire Department (SFD) Chief Harold Scoggins said that each of the two mobile teams will be staffed by an EMT or a paramedic and two civilian technicians. The EMT will be the one to administer the vaccine, and the civilian technicians will verify the recipient’s identity and collect other data for the Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) vaccination tracking dashboard.
Scoggins said that the vaccine will specifically be the Moderna vaccine and that the two mobile teams will be able to complete 100 vaccinations per day. As with other vaccines against the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, the Moderna vaccine is given in two doses. Scoggins said that he expects the first round of vaccines to be completed by Jan. 24 and the second round to be completed by Feb. 21, given the mandatory 28-day time period that people must wait between receiving the first and second dose.
In a response to Nikki Barron of Converge Media, the SPD Fire Capt. confirmed that the mobile teams will be prioritizing South Seattle’s adult living homes, which house Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations. These communities have been shown to be most at risk of death from the disease. Durkan said that the aim of this mobile vaccination effort is to fill in the “gaps” in federal efforts at vaccination.
However, this immediate mobile team effort covers just a tiny sliver of the number of people who must be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity, which is the point at which everyone is sufficiently protected from the virus. According to the Mayo Clinic, this means that 70% of local, state, and national populations must be immunized. Durkan said that this 70% translates into about 1.3 million King County residents, and that immunization can occur only one of two ways: by infection and recovery or vaccination.
While some have pushed for herd immunity via infection and recovery, the reality is that the virus is unpredictable. Not only is there a chance a person infected with the virus will die from COVID-19, but the long term health effects can be devastating. This disease has crippled young and healthy athletes and has been causing severe and lasting effects in young people without any underlying conditions that have been proven to increase a person’s chances of dying, such as obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or chronic respiratory conditions. The long term effects have been seen even in people who have only experienced a mild form of the disease.
Durkan said that the City will be following the vaccination guidelines put out by the DOH and that it is important that everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated do so as soon as possible. She encouraged people to have “compassionate” conversations with those who are against the vaccine or who are afraid of it. She could not give an exact estimate regarding mass vaccination efforts, however, as “supply is going to drive everything.”
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