by Jack Russillo
With more than 60% of Seattlites already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is shutting down all but one of the City’s fixed mass-vaccination sites.
Durkan made the announcement on Wednesday, May 26, at a press conference at the Rainier Beach vaccination site at Be’er Sheva Park. She said that the decision comes with the news that more than three-quarters of Seattle residents aged 12 or older have initiated their vaccination process.
“I had hoped that we would see the pendulum swing in about June, optimistically thinking that we could get more vaccines for people who wanted it,” said Durkan at the press conference. “We were able to beat that by weeks because we accelerated and had such great partnerships, but mostly because of people in this city. Community organizations stepped up to ensure that they could be trusted partners to help the community get vaccinated and the people of Seattle. Every time we’ve asked them to do something hard during this pandemic, they have done it. And we have seen the results: the city of Seattle has the lowest incidence of disease, hospitalizations, and deaths of any major city in America.”
Seattle’s fixed vaccination sites at the Lumen Field Event Center, North Seattle College, Rainier Beach, and West Seattle will all cease operations by the end of June. The SODO site, which began vaccinating people on Tuesday, will stay open for both testing and vaccinations through the summer.
According to the City, Seattle has administered more than 230,000 total vaccinations, including more than 128,000 first doses. 48% of people vaccinated at any location by the City have identified themselves as part of Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) communities, which is 15% more than the BIPOC share of Seattle’s population.
“We delivered vaccines more equitably than many other places across the country,” said Durkan. “We saw early on in this pandemic that our communities of color were hit disproportionately by this disease, both by the health impacts and the economic impacts. We saw the early vaccination numbers showing that again it was our communities of color lagging behind and so we double-downed as a city to make sure that we center people in equity.”
The vaccination site at Lumen Field, which opened in March as the largest civilian-run vaccination center in the nation, will stop operating on June 12. Earlier this month, it broke the national record for the most vaccinations administered in a single day when more than 8,500 people received a dose of vaccine. Nearly half of the vaccinations given by the City were at Lumen Field.
The SFD Community Vaccination Hubs at Rainier Beach and West Seattle will cease operations on June 23 and June 9, respectively. If people have received a first dose of the vaccine from one of the closing locations, they can get their second at the SODO site.
UW Medicine’s testing trailers will remain open at each hub, even after vaccinations end. Since the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) began distributing vaccines in January, when it became the first emergency medical services agency in the state to do so, the SFD sites have given nearly 107,000 vaccinations combined, including more than 60,000 first doses.
“Over the course of the pandemic, the work of the Seattle Fire Department has evolved tremendously,” said Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. “From standing up a COVID-19 testing site for first responders, to conducting more than 756,000 COVID-19 tests at our four community testing sites, to administering more than 133,500 vaccinations, our work has pivoted to best serve the Seattle community. I am so proud of the hard work of the firefighters, paramedics and professional staff who work for the SFD and our partners at AMR, UW Medicine and Swedish who have also worked tirelessly for a healthier Seattle. We are a resilient community, and I feel hopeful about ramping down our efforts now that a vast majority of our population is vaccinated.”
Once the vaccination sites close, the SFD Mobile Vaccination Teams will become Seattle’s main vaccination method for the rest of the summer. According to Scoggins, the mobile vaccination teams have administered more than 26,000 vaccinations at more than 300 locations across the city, at places like adult family homes, supportive housing buildings, sports games, and affordable housing locations. Of those, 59% of people receiving vaccines identified as a member of the BIPOC community.
The SFD has worked with the City’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) and the Department of Neighborhoods to form more effective partnerships with community groups in historically-neglected areas. Over the summer, Durkan has directed the mobile vaccination teams to focus on delivering more vaccines to Seattle youth, who are currently underrepresented in the countywide vaccination effort.
“Our staff was proud to collaborate both across City departments and with community-based organizations to help ensure that equity, cultural competency, and language accessibility were all integrated throughout Seattle’s evolving vaccine campaign,” said OIRA director Cuc Vu. “And I am proud to say that our work spoke for itself, as 48% of those vaccinated by the City identified as BIPOC, 15% more than the BIPOC share of Seattle’s population. Truly, ‘immigrants, we get the job done!’”
Mayor Durkan concluded the press conference with a message to remind people to follow King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin’s recommendation to wear masks when indoors in a public space.
“We are in so much of a better place, but we are not done,” said Durkan. “We are not out of the woods in a lot of regards. We have seen a rise in the variants in this area and some of those variants are much more communicable and lead to worse disease. The virus preys on the vulnerable. In the early days, we saw that was our seniors, people with health conditions, and our essential workers who had no choice but to be out. The most vulnerable today are going to be those people who are not vaccinated because we have done a great job in getting vaccinations for our seniors, for our essential workers, and for others. We still have work to do in equity because we still see gaps in communities of color and we will continue to work with those trusted partners to do that.”
Jack Russillo has been reporting in Western Washington since 2013. He covers the environment, social justice, and other topics that affect a sustainable and equitable future. He currently lives in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood.
Featured Image: Mayor Jenny Durkan announcing the vaccination site closures at the Rainier Beach location at Be’er Sheva Park. (Photo by Jack Russillo)
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