The COVID-19 vaccine is here, but neither Island Hospital nor all of Skagit County have yet received what they expected or need to advance in the distribution phases laid out by the state Department of Health.
As of Tuesday, Skagit County was still in the initial phase 1a, which limits the vaccine to health care workers, first responders and residents in long-term care.
Island Hospital was still vaccinating health care workers, though officials expect to finish that group by week’s end.
Hospital officials are in communication with Skagit County Public Health to determine what role they will have in the next phases.
The updated state plan outlines in what order people could expect to receive the vaccine. However, Island Hospital CEO Charles Hall told the Anacortes American on Friday that timing depends on actually having the vaccine to give them.
“The flow of these vaccines are being distributed throughout the state to those who need it so we can all relatively move together one phase to the next,” Hall said.
Skagit County received fewer doses in their allotment than neighboring counties. Island County received over twice as many doses as Skagit did, despite having 35,000 fewer residents. The Skagit County board sent a letter to the governor and state Department of Health last week asking for “clarity and consistency” in the allotments.
A “lack of consistency,” “geographically disproportionate allocation of vaccines” and “lack of clarity in the decision-making process” have made plans and communication difficult for county Public Health, the letter states.
The county had received no state response as of Monday.
Plans are in place to set up vaccinations at a drive-thru site at the county fairgrounds in Mount Vernon, but vaccinations through primary care providers are also possible in the coming phases, county spokesperson Laura Han said.
She also said vaccinations at long-term care facilities have taken place, but said they are not able to say which ones in the county due to safety concerns. Hall said that those facilities are being vaccinated via private pharmacies contracted by the government.
Island Hospital has given 496 people receiving their first dose so far. Hall said that initial doses will have been given or offered to all of the 1,100 health care workers on Fidalgo by the end of this week.
“At this point, all of our staff have been offered the vaccine, (but) not all of our staff are ready to take the vaccine,” he said.
The hospital also started giving vaccines to health care workers outside of Island Hospital on Friday.
“I’m very grateful for the community’s support and appreciative of our providers and staff who have battled COVID-19 over the last year, and we’ve been extremely fortunate to have had less of an impact than some other (areas) of the country,” Hall said.
Meanwhile, Island Hospital has seen a slight increase in the number of admitted COVID-19 patients, though the number of outpatient cases has dropped, Hall said. As of Monday morning, Island Hospital had four patients hospitalized with COVID-19 since Jan. 4.
Skagit County reported 3,399 cases as of Monday, which is an increase of 215 since Jan. 4. The county has had 43 deaths since the pandemic was first confirmed here March 10.
“People should not expect Skagit County to move into Phase 1B until February at the earliest,” Skagit County Public Health said in a release, also stating that timing could improve if more doses arrive. The county will announce the next phase via press release and social media.
The state has set up a website called FindYourPhaseWA.org, which aims to help residents understand when they are eligible to receive the vaccine after taking a short survey. It is currently set up only to see if a person qualifies for Phase 1A, but should include all phases on Jan. 18. It will also be able to notify a person via text or email when they become eligible.