Gov. Inslee lowers age of those eligible for vaccines

Just when residents of Washington will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine depends on how many doses the federal government delivers and how many the state can administer in a day.

Currently, the state is receiving 100,000 doses per week and administering 14,000 doses per day, but

Gov. Jay Inslee acknowledged Jan. 18 there have been major bumps in the road so far.

“I have to be forthright with Washingtonians,” Inslee said. “Patience is going to be one of the most important assets for us in the upcoming weeks and months.”

The biggest roadblock to vaccine deliveries right now, according to Inslee, is the federal allotment the state is receiving. Inslee said he was confident that the state would be able to get an increasing number of vaccine doses each month, but he did not estimate how soon the federal government will be able to ramp up delivery.

Once doses are available, people who are 65 years or older, or who are 50 years or older and reside in a multigenerational household, are immediately eligible for a COVID vaccine, he said. He also stressed that residents who are eligible should contact their healthcare provider to find out when they can secure a dose of the vaccine.

For residents in smaller rural counties, Inslee said the vaccine roll-out could be slowed because, even though the currently eligible population for a county may already be completed, across the state, there are still 1.1 million people who fall under the new age category. Catching up to the backlog of medical workers who still need vaccines is also slowing down the process.

Inslee unveiled a goal of making 45,000 doses per day available, rising dramatically from the current federal allotment to Washington state of 100,000 per week.

A list of mass vaccination sites will be ready by the week of Jan. 25, Inslee said.

PhaseFinder, an online tool and app for vaccine information, shut down for a moment following Inslee’s announcement, but due to a partnership with Microsoft, the server was running again with only a minor delay.

A private-public partnership between Washington businesses is assisting with volunteers, planning, infrastructure, support, and other tools to assist the state with vaccinations. The partnership includes Microsoft, Costco, Starbucks, health care providers, unions and community health care centers.

Susan Mullaney, the president of Kaiser Permanente, described the partnership as truly being a team sport.

“We’re going to give all of you, every Washingtonian, our best effort,” Mullaney said.

In announcing their plans, Mullaney and Inslee were joined by the presidents of Starbucks, Microsoft, and Seamar Community Health Centers as well as Jane Hopkins, a registered nurse and vice president of a nurse collective, and Dr. Umair Shah, Secretary of Health with the Washington Department of Health.

At the end of the questions, Inslee made mention of the next phase, which is planned to include essential workers like grocery store clerks and educators, though no date of when this will take effect was given.