Leaders Celebrate COVID-19 Response, Push Vaccine Access in South King County

by Elizabeth Turnbull

On Thursday, leaders at the local and national level gathered at the Rainier Beach COVID-19 vaccination site where they urged Seattle residents to get vaccinated and addressed the city’s evolution since becoming one of the first outbreaks of the virus in the U.S.

“A lot of people lost loved ones, a lot of people lost jobs, a lot of people lost hope, [this] felt like a long dark tunnel and today we are here in the light,” Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said at the briefing. “For months now we’ve been saying you’ve got to sign up for appointments, you have to wait your turn, you have to wait for your age group. That is not the case anymore.”

Thus far, 67% of Seattle residents have gotten at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the city, and city officials are working to make the vaccine more accessible now that all individuals age 16 and above are eligible for the vaccine. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra spoke to work from City leaders and the firefighters on the ground. 

“Team Seattle has done phenomenal work from the very first day that we started to learn more about this pandemic to today,” Becerra said. “I will tell you that President Biden and the Biden administration would love nothing more than to say that we’ve earned a spot on team Seattle to help with the vaccination of the people who live and make this [place] home.” 

Public Health — Seattle & King County announced on Thursday that two vaccination sites in South King County will begin accepting walk-up vaccinations with no appointments necessary Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The sites are the Auburn Outlet Mall and the Kent accesso ShoWare Center. These sites will provide walk-up vaccinations for up to 1,000 county residents a day, who are 16 and older, regardless of their zip code. 

At the SFD Community Vaccination Hub at Rainier Beach, residents who are 60 years-old and older can access walk-up appointments and if they are brought by a family member above the age of 16, this family member can also walk-up to get the vaccine. To help improve vaccine access for residents who work long hours during the day, next week on Tuesday, May 4, the Rainier Beach vaccination will be open until 7:30 p.m. and the West Seattle vaccination site will be open until 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5. 

City officials are also trying more unconventional methods of vaccine delivery and walk-up vaccinations, provided by the Seattle Fire Department. Vaccines will be available this weekend at the Seattle Sounders soccer game for fans who bring their ID’s, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan who attended the briefing along with the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Congresswoman Jayapal, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, and others.

As vaccine accessibility becomes more pervasive however, officials have also become leery of a current increase in case numbers and hospitals are seeing younger patients from ages ranging from 30 to 50  increasingly needing hospitaliztion. Amid new COVID-19 variants such as the B.1.1.7, city and government officials are stressing the importance of getting the vaccine. 

“This is a race between the vaccine and the virus and right now the virus is catching back up,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said at the press briefing. “We know how to beat the virus and with the incredible vaccines that we have, we have a good tool to do that. But it’s on every single one of us to do their part. Nobody else can get your vaccine for you — you’ve got to step up.” 

Residents can visit www.seattle.gov/vaccine or call the Customer Service Bureau at 206-684-2489 to schedule vaccination appointments and visit  www.kingcounty.gov/covid/registration to register for appointments in Auburn and Kent. For more info on how to get a vaccine visit the Emerald’s info page.

Elizabeth Turnbull

Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently. Her work includes comprehensive documentation of the Seattle protests following the murder of George Floyd as well as news coverage from her time writing for the Jordan Times, where she covered news about resources and governmental provisions for refugees.

📸 Featured Image: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra speaks during a press conference at City of Seattle vaccination site in Rainier Beach alongside Mayor Jenny Durkan. Photo by Susan Fried. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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