Skagit County has received fewer does of the COVID-19 vaccine than neighboring counties, and local officials have not been given an explanation.
The county commissioners sent a letter Wednesday to Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah, asking why this is and calling for more clarity on vaccine shipments in the coming weeks as the state prepares to expand eligibility.
As of data available Jan. 3, Skagit County officials say the county has received 1,475 doses of the vaccine for its population of about 129,000, said Island County, with a population of about 85,000, was given 3,950 doses, and Whatcom County received 8,100 doses for its 229,000 residents.
Further, the letter states Skagit County was skipped on the third week of distribution, while other counties received doses, Commissioner Lisa Janicki said.
Howard Leibrand, county health officer, said he’s received no explanation from the state for these discrepancies.
“It certainly wasn’t because we weren’t on the ball requesting (the vaccine),” he said.
Leibrand said staff at the state Department of Health are listening, and have said they will address the discrepancy in future allocations.
So while this issue may be moot in coming weeks, Leibrand said it will still delay protecting health care workers from the virus.
“If we’re weeks late on vaccinating our health care people, someone will get COVID ... unnecessarily,” he said.
The state was hoping to complete vaccinations on health care workers next week, but Janicki said the county can’t achieve that because of the small number of doses its been given.
“We don’t have enough vaccines on hand to come anywhere near meeting that,” she said.
About 10,000 county residents are eligible for vaccines in Phase 1A, according to county spokesperson Laura Han.
Island Hospital in Anacortes, Leibrand said, wasn’t allocated any doses of the vaccine for its employees, and had to rely on doses from Skagit and Island counties.
“We’re doing everything we can internally,” Leibrand said. “We just need the vaccine.”
While having a larger population doesn’t necessarily mean a county has more people who qualify for the initial round of vaccines, Leibrand said Skagit County’s health care workers outnumber those in Island County and rival those in Whatcom County.
Further, many patients in Island and San Juan counties are treated in facilities such as Skagit Valley Hospital to get the care they can’t get in their counties, he said.
If anything, this should make the health of Skagit County’s health care workers a greater priority, he said.
As of Tuesday, Han estimated about 2,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered, but she didn’t have accurate numbers on deliveries to private clinics and pharmacies, namely Walgreens.
Statewide, 522,550 doses have been delivered and 126,602 have been administered, Shah said in a briefing Wednesday with Department of Health staff.
At the same briefing, Assistant Secretary Michele Roberts said the state plans to expand access to the vaccine in the coming weeks, as it moves into Phase 1B.
While a firm start date isn’t set, she said those 70 or older and those 50 or older who live in multigenerational households will be eligible.
In the coming months, those 50 or older who work in certain essential congregant settings and those with multiple medical conditions will be eligible. Younger essential workers won’t be eligible until April, according to state information.