Frustrations surrounding inconsistent vaccine availability remains the largest hurdle to getting needles in arms.
The shortages start at the top. Last week, facilities in the state requested 430,275 doses of vaccine, but were given 165,850 by the federal government, according to the state Department of Health.
About 35% went to mass vaccination sites; 23% to hospitals; 19% to community health centers; 19% to pharmacies; and 3% to tribal governments.
And the state expects between 206,000 and 240,000 doses over each of the next three weeks.
In Snohomish County, providers last week received about 15,000 doses — 9,000 for first shots and 6,000 for second ones. If the vaccine was available, the county’s 93 vaccine providers are prepared to administer more than 50,000 doses a week, including at up to seven mass vaccination sites such as the new one at Arlington Municipal Airport.
“We do have a lot of capacity. We, unfortunately, do not have a lot of vaccine,” Jason Biermann, Snohomish County Emergency Management director, said in a media briefing last week.
“If you think about the numbers, that’s 9,000 doses and 100,000 eligible people hoping to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “It’s just a fraction of what we need it to be to satisfy the demand to address the frustrations everyone is experiencing and to fulfill the desire that most everyone in the county must have to be vaccinated. That’s what’s leading to the frustrations, the heightened stress levels in our community and what feels like trying to find the golden ticket to a vaccine appointment.”
To date, Snohomish County has administered 53,720 of the 61,175 first doses received and administered 8,439 doses of the 29,650 second doses received.
On Camano, Camano Island Fire & Rescue received 300 doses early last week, but appointments filled up fast. Camano Island Health Systems — the only other vaccine provider on the island — was also overwhelmed, temporarily pausing on taking names and call-back numbers for the vaccine, according to an announcement online.
This week, CIFR officials requested 1,200 doses but were told to expect none, the fire department announced online.
The nine-member Island County Council of Governments met virtually with a representative of Gov. Jay Inslee to lobby for more vaccine, in addition to advocating to advance the county to Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan.
After learning CIFR would receive no vaccine for the week of Feb. 8, Island County leaders sent a letter to Inslee urging the state to reconsider its allocation decisions.
“Island County has a disproportionately larger population over the age of 65. While Washington state has an average of 15% of those 65 and older, in Island County 30% of our residents are over that age,” the letter states. “In addition, 25% of our population represents those 50 years or older living in multi-generational households.”
Meanwhile, Snohomish Health District officials announced they soon hope to launch a new computer system that is expected to eliminate vaccine scheduling issues and allow the creation of a waitlist.
Until then, officials are urging patience.
“It's still going to take us up to six months to achieve vaccination of everyone who wants it,” Biermann said.
Stanwood-Camano teachers to get vaccinated
The Stillaguamish Tribe, which is not bound by the state's vaccine phases, has stepped in to help vaccinate Stanwood-Camano School District staff against COVID-19.
First doses began Friday at the Stillaguamish Tribal clinic for those who wanted it. The shots likely will come weeks before teachers and staff in other parts of the state will have a chance to get the vaccine.
“We believe we will be able to vaccinate all of our staff — teachers, paraeducators, bus drivers, coaches, everyone — during the month of February,” said Maurene Stanton, the Stanwood-Camano School District executive director of human resources.
The district has about 900 employees. About 100 already received at least a first dose prior to the Stillaguamish Tribe’s offer, Stanton said.
Currently, the state is allowing those in Phases 1A and 1BA to receive vaccines. Those groups include front-line health workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, all residents over the age of 65, and those 50 and older who live multigenerational homes. Teachers age 50 and older would become eligible in Phases 1B2, according to the state’s guidelines. Teachers age 49 and younger are eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1B4.
In a January press conference, Gov. Jay Inslee announced he was not considering moving teachers up on the state's priority list for the vaccine.
Vaccine update:— Camano Island Fire & Rescue (@CamanoFire) February 6, 2021
We requested 1,200 doses of vaccine. Unfortunately, the state did not allocate any doses to us for the week of Feb. 8.
With no vaccines to give, our clinic will be closed next week.
Find info about our process, and how the clinic works: https://t.co/KR0hX1o2gc pic.twitter.com/zr79lTqNlu
The Snohomish County Joint Information Center twice weekly publishes COVID-19 Brief, with pandemic-related updates and community information. In today’s edition: Play it smart on Super Bowl Sunday; show how you choose to fight COVID. https://t.co/58APSZwuhr pic.twitter.com/UcqC10pQpB— Snohomish County DEM (@SnoCo_DEM) February 5, 2021