by Carolyn Bick
Washingtonians aged 65 and older and, additionally, those aged 50 and older who live in “multigenerational households” are now eligible to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus under Phase 1B — Tier 1 effective immediately, Gov. Jay Inslee announced in a press conference on Jan. 18 (“multigenerational household,” per the schedule update, was not immediately defined). He also announced a slew of other vaccination schedule changes, including statewide mass vaccinations that will begin as soon as next week and the creation of a private-public partnership, in order to ramp up to administering 45,000 vaccines per day as quickly as possible.
Inslee said that allowing people aged 65 and older as well as those 50 and older — specifically those 50 and older who are living in what was referred to during the press conference as “multigenerational households” — to get the vaccine sooner than originally planned is meant to reflect a more equitable distribution of vaccines. That said, all persons wishing to learn their vaccination eligibility should go to the State’s online vaccine eligibility assessor, called Phase Finder, and fill out the questionnaire. (Note: As of this publication, the website seems to be experiencing some technical difficulties.)
Inslee also said that once roughly half of people eligible to get the vaccine under Phase 1B — Tier 1 have gotten vaccinated, the State’s vaccine providers will be allowed to offer vaccines to people deemed eligible in Phase 1B’s Tiers 2, 3, and 4, in order to increase efficiency.
In a further effort to increase efficiency and avoid vaccine wastage — a problem identified in early January — Inslee announced that vaccine providers are going to be required to allocate 95% of the vaccines they have been given within a week of receipt. Every dose delivered to providers prior to this week, he said, will have to be allocated by Jan. 24.
Currently, Inslee said, the State is vaccinating between 13,000 and 15,000 people per day. This “matches or exceeds what we are receiving from the federal government,” he said. However, he announced at the press conference that the plan is to get up to 45,000 vaccinations per day. To that end, the Washington National Guard is helping the State to set up four mass vaccination sites that will be up and running next week. These sites are the Spokane Arena in Spokane, the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, and the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield. Starting next week, Inslee said, vaccine doses will be divided amongst these sites and local clinics.
Inslee said he expects that the Biden administration will be instrumental in getting more vaccines distributed, since the Trump administration was apparently mistaken at best, and lying, at worst, when it said that it had thousands more vaccines in reserve to ship out to states that are already stretched for vaccines, as The Washington Post reported a few days ago.
Finally, Inslee announced a private-public partnership among health care providers, private businesses, and labor organizations called the Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center. This partnership is meant to boost vaccine distribution efforts and includes businesses like Microsoft and Starbucks, labor organizations such as SEIU 1199, which represents more than 30,000 health care workers throughout the state, and health care organizations like Kaiser Permanente and SeaMar Community Health Centers, the latter of which focuses on serving historically underrepresented communities.
Health officials, business leaders, a labor representative, and health care organization leaders joined Inslee on the call to briefly speak about the private-public partnership. More information on participants’ roles may be found here. Inslee also clarified that businesses that are participating in the partnership are not receiving financial or other incentives for being a part of the partnership.
More information about the State’s vaccination plans may be found on the DOH’s vaccination webpage, and daily information about the novel coronavirus pandemic and its associated disease, COVID-19, may be found on the DOH’s COVID-19 data dashboard. Public Health — Seattle & King County also keeps a COVID-19 dashboard, which it also updates daily.
The King County Council (KCC) will also be voting on legislation aimed at ensuring “all the resources of King County can be brought to bear in ensuring everyone has access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” according to a press release sent out shortly before Inslee’s press conference.
“Sponsored by King County Councilmembers Rod Dembowski, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Reagan Dunn and Pete Von Reichbauer, it would require [Executive Dow Constantine] to lay out a detailed and robust plan to deliver the vaccines countywide, lower barriers to access, and have most King County residents vaccinated by June, with priority for older people and others at higher risk of death,” the press release reads.
The full meeting of the KCC to consider this legislation will take place virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 1 p.m. and will be livestreamed here.
Featured image by Arne Müseler (arne-mueseler.com); used here under a CC-BY-SA-3.0 license.
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