Washington officials are opening the gate on COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for the 6.3 million people in the state 16 and older starting April 15th.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced all the state’s adults will become eligible in two weeks joining a trend across the country of removing complicated phases and moving to get the most people vaccinated as quickly as possible as the spread of the virus has again sped up. CHS reported here on the uptick in King County cases as the state has loosened many restrictions on businesses and social gathering. The county is currently measuring a positive rate of around 149 per 100,000 people — if the rate rises above 200, many restrictions would be rolled back into place.
Inslee’s announcement comes on the day the latest vaccine phase added essential workers including food and drink employees to the rank of those eligible for the vaccines. Washington residents 60 to 64 and those experiencing homelessness that live in or access services at shelters and congregate settings are also now eligible.
While complicated, the state’s phasing of eligibility seems to have helped address some of the concerns around equity and vaccine distribution. Seattle officials say efforts to reach vulnerable residents including communities of color have been successful here with around 70% of those 65 years old and older in all parts of the city receiving at least one shot of vaccine. Despite efforts to reach the communities, People of Color groups have continued to lag the county’s white population in the rate of vaccination but the trend has been improving with later phases.
Vaccines are, indeed, eventually coming for kids but will require more studies. With children considered low risk for complications from COVID, officials hope that vaccinating adults will be enough to all but snuff out the pandemic. But true herd immunity will require vaccines for those under 16.
As of today, 21.5% of all King County adults were reported fully vaccinated — 37.4% had received at least one shot.
The massive expansion of eligibility that will come starting April 15th will be a major challenge for the combined systems of cities, medical facilities, and private companies that have been knitted together to distribute the vaccines. Supplies so far haven’t kept up with demand — a situation the White House says should improve by May.
The phased approach will have somewhat tempered demand. Officials say about 3 million had been eligible before around another
2 million 1.5 million joined the ranks with this week’s changes. With overlap in the phases, that means somewhere around 4 million people in the state are currently eligible. Another 2 1.6 or so million join the ranks on April 15th. But there are many, many more shots to dole out. As of last week, state officials estimated around 1 million people had been fully vaccinated in the state. (UPDATE: Thanks to @zompus_ext for the help on the totals)
Many Seattleites will end up lined up at the largest civilian-led vaccination site in the nation in the event center at Seattle’s Lumen Field. The 190,000-square-foot center is hoped to eventually scale up to serving around 150,000 people a week as officials look to push the city’s vaccination rate to 70%, the level believed to be necessary for Seattle to fully emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
Signing up and getting scheduled has been a major challenge for participants in the state’s earliest phases. The situation has improved somewhat in recent weeks but still requires people to navigate separate registration processes provider by provider instead of one central sign-up process. The state’s Phase Finder registration system turned out to be mostly an informational gateway and has already been discontinued. More useful, officials, hope is the state’s Vaccine Locator. So far, the system’s haven’t been enabled for scheduling of future phases so you might need to wait for April 15th to begin your own search for the vaccine.
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