Skagit County’s largest COVID-19 vaccine providers are preparing for expanded eligibility.
With everyone 16 and older permitted to get the vaccine starting April 15, county spokesperson Laura Han said those who are newly eligible should expect some difficulty getting an appointment.
“This is just because there still isn’t enough vaccine to meet demand — particularly when demand expands so drastically,” Han said in an email.
However, she said she doesn’t anticipate getting appointments will be as difficult as it was in January, when the vaccine was first made available to the general public. Online scheduling tools have become more reliable since then, and more providers have access to the vaccine.
Alongside public providers such as Skagit County Public Health, Skagit Regional Health and Island Hospital, many private pharmacies and clinics are also vaccinating. A full list, including contact and scheduling information, is available at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.
Han said the availability of the vaccine will continue to determine how difficult it is to get appointments, though state and federal governments have indicated supply will be increasing through April.
The county-operated vaccination clinic at the Skagit County Fairgrounds is capable of giving as many as 4,500 shots per week, but the site has never been allotted nearly enough doses to hit capacity, she said.
Han encouraged those who will become eligible April 15 to familiarize themselves with the online scheduling system at prepmod.doh.wa.gov ahead of their eligibility, and consult the English and Spanish how-to guides at skagitcounty.blog.
Dr. Connie Davis, chief medical officer at Skagit Regional Health, said she’s expecting a spike in demand, but one the provider’s vaccination clinic will be able to handle.
“They just have to be patient and persistent,” she said of those seeking vaccinations. “We will get to them.”
Like the county-run site, Skagit Regional Health’s vaccination clinic has consistently been given fewer doses than it has the capacity to give.
Elise Cutter, Island Hospital’s chief operating officer, said the number of providers now administering the vaccine means access won’t be as challenged as in January.
“Early on we were the only location in Anacortes vaccinating. Now we have several options for our community members, including multiple pharmacies,” she said in an email. “People better understand the process now.”
This new group of those who are set to become vaccine-eligible will be younger and likely more comfortable navigating online scheduling, and Cutter expects fewer issues with scheduling technology than before.
As long as Island Hospital keeps getting a consistent supply of the vaccine, Cutter said she believes the demand can be met.