The city of Seattle and private partners are stoking vaccine efforts as more people become eligible for boosters, by establishing a downtown vaccine site at the Amazon Meeting Center and restarting mobile vaccine clinics with the Seattle Fire Department. 

At a news conference Monday, Mayor Jenny Durkan and partners from Amazon, Swedish Medical Center, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and the SFD, announced the heightened vaccine initiatives beginning later this month. The initiatives, Durkan said, are geared toward underserved communities. 

“As we head into the colder months, and additional groups become eligible, it is so important for us to have the vaccine and booster shots available to keep us safe,” Durkan said. “We know there also has to be a continued focus on equitable vaccine giving, because if we don’t focus on that, we know that we will have some of the same disparities that we saw before.”

The Amazon site will open on Oct. 23, and operate from 9:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, through early 2022.

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“This is a drop-in, you don’t need an appointment, and you can get your first, second, or your booster shot,” Durkan said.

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Participants will not need proof of insurance or identification to receive vaccines at the site or through the mobile clinics, which will focus on serving those that are eligible for boosters and children in underserved areas, as Pfizer requests FDA approval for use in children 5-11 years old.

“Our goal is to keep this as low-barrier as possible,” Durkan said.

In the next two weeks, Durkan says, the city will announce additional community hubs in the South End and West Seattle.

Asked what spurred the sudden increase in vaccine efforts, Durkan said the city is trying to be proactive as more people become eligible for boosters.

“What has made us truly as successful as we have been — which is not to say there hasn’t been an enormous amount of suffering throughout this — was anticipating what’s next,” said Durkan, adding that the city is more than 70% vaccinated. “And we knew that, particularly with booster shots and with a large cohort of people who suddenly would become eligible, that we would have to have more infrastructure again.”

Durkan said the city will invest around $2 million in the new vaccine efforts.

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A spokesperson for the city said after the news conference that the city will seek federal reimbursement for the funds, and anticipates that money, closer to $2.1 million, will cover the mobile clinics as well as the fixed Amazon, South End and West Seattle vaccine sites through February 2022. 

“Vaccination is absolutely urgent. If you look at the rates of the delta variant now, they’re starting to come down,” infectious disease physician Dr. Chris Baliga said. “But they’re awfully high. They’re almost as high as they were at our prior peaks.”

“It’s still out there,” he added. “It’s just waiting to get you.”

Baliga, who is the medical director for infection prevention at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, said that even with waning cases, the increased efforts are necessary.

“The single most important thing we can do to help end the scourge which is COVID-19 is to get vaccinated,” Baliga said. “At this point, pretty much everyone who’s over the age of 12 should be getting a vaccine.”

When asked about the city’s struggle to get some of its own employees vaccinated — namely hundreds of Seattle police officers who are yet to get the vaccine as of last week with an approaching deadline of Oct. 18 — Durkan said she believes a majority of holdouts will choose to “do the right thing.”

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“COVID is the leading cause of death for first responders across the country,” the mayor said, and then repeated for emphasis.

“So I am hoping that every Seattle police officer and every Seattle firefighter does what they have been doing their whole careers — stand up and do all they can to protect the residents and businesses that they serve, and their co-workers,” Durkan said.

She said that there is “always a late surge” of people to get vaccinated ahead of a deadline, citing a recent uptick in Washington State Patrol vaccinations ahead of the same deadline.

“So I have every hope and confidence that every Seattle police officer and every firefighter will do what they’ve been called to do, and that’s serve the public and serve health and public safety.”

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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