Four mass COVID-19 vaccination sites are expected to open next week in Washington state, though none are in King County, which is working toward a February debut of its own sites in the county’s hard-hit south.
The state Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday it was partnering with local health care systems in Clark, Benton, Chelan and Spokane counties to deliver tens of thousands of vaccines.
The announcement came three days after Gov. Jay Inslee expanded eligibility for vaccination and set a goal of vaccinating 45,000 people a day. The state is currently administering an average of 15,500 doses each day.
Across the county line, Snohomish County and the Snohomish Health District have spun up three high-volume vaccination sites in Everett, Edmonds and Monroe.
DOH didn’t answer questions about how the counties were chosen for mass vaccination sites or if more sites are planned. King County has not yet had any discussion about a state high-volume vaccination site.
The state’s new vaccination phase, 1B, includes anyone 65 and older. The state’s previous guidance for the tier had made eligible those 70 and older and people 50 and older living in multigenerational households.
Hitting the 45,000 vaccinations a day depends on supply. To meet the goal, Washington must obtain 300,000 doses a week, a volume it is not yet receiving, said Michele Roberts, a DOH assistant secretary.
There is no timeline yet from the federal government about increases in shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine, state Health Officer Dr. Umair Shah said.
“We have a fundamental responsibility to overcome these challenges. And to simply get all of those challenges completed, overcome and to get it right,” Shah said. “That’s what people want. And that’s what matters.”
King County began planning for vaccinations in July once DOH and the federal government started sharing information about vaccine arrivals, and it started ordering supplies such as gloves and portable coolers, said Sharon Bogan, a spokesperson with Public Health – Seattle & King County.
The county opened vaccination clinics on Dec. 17, six days after being told doses were on the way. Work on the mass vaccination sites began Jan. 8, the day County Executive Dow Constantine directed $7 million toward their creation, Bogan said.
Planning by Snohomish County’s emergency coordination center for the mass vaccination sites began in July. The county’s three sites can administer about 30,000 vaccinations a week and could increase the volume to 50,000 a week if there was more supply.
“I know that the state is not getting adequate supplies either,” said Dave Somers, the Snohomish County executive, during a Tuesday news briefing. “And they have to provide for 39 counties. So I understand the complexity of this, but I want to assure everybody we have the capacity in Snohomish County and can do more.”
Counties are going to vaccinate residents in varying ways, but “ultimately much comes down to the supply of vaccine we are projected to receive,” Bogan said.
Mass vaccination locations in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties could potentially administer vaccines to 100,000 people a week, according to DOH.
The state is extending its partnerships with the private sector to reach more people. The first round of vaccines for those in the state’s nursing homes was completed Thursday. The nursing home vaccination program was a state and federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens.
Amazon is working with Virginia Mason to provide pop-up vaccine clinics and Microsoft is turning its Redmond campus into a mass vaccination site that can handle 5,000 people a day.
Earlier this month on the Olympic Peninsula, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe offered a drive-thru clinic for its nontribal neighbors using the excess doses it had after inoculating tribal members.
The state’s vaccination program has “been uneven at best,” Shah said. Despite the lack of a national vaccination strategy, the shortcomings fall to the state, he said.