EVERETT — The vaccine frenzy is slowing down in Washington.
After months of waiting in line, those most eager to get vaccinated have largely done so, state health officials say. Now the focus is on convincing those on the fence to sign up, and making it easier than ever to get a dose.
“We’re just hitting a different phase of the administration,” state Deputy Secretary of Health Lacy Fehrenbach said during a Thursday news conference. “What we’re seeing now, in a change in demand, is that now we have to reach out and make it really easy for the people who are open to it but are not breaking down our doors to get a vaccine.”
In Snohomish County, appointments across the seven mass vaccination sites are still filling up, with some people flowing over to wait lists.
However, the days when thousands of time slots are filled within an hour are gone.
As of Friday, one in three Snohomish County adults was fully vaccinated, data show. And more than half of all Washingtonians have received at least one dose.
But Gov. Jay Inslee is concerned that the number of people lining up for a dose could plateau.
He’s asking vaccinated Washingtonians to reach out to friends and families wary about the shots.
With a fourth wave of virus transmission on the horizon, state and local leaders are warning that the stakes are too high to pass on vaccines.
“All of us can be leaders with our loved ones,” Inslee said Thursday. “Being on the fence is too dangerous of a position right now.”
In Snohomish County, the latest two-week case count showed more than 205 new infections per 100,000 residents. And on Friday, hospitalizations due to COVID rose to 44. A few weeks ago, that number was in the teens.
And for the first time, the majority of people hospitalized in the county due to COVID are under 60 as new variants become the predominant strains of the virus.
The rising metrics will likely lead Snohomish County, and many others across Washington, to fall back to Phase 2 in the state’s reopening plan.
Going forward, the state Department of Health has plans to launch a public vaccination campaign.
Inslee and other medical professionals add that people should address their vaccine questions to their doctor, not social media.
“There’s a good reason why I don’t work on my own car,” said Dr. Dan Getz, chief medical officer for Providence Sacred Heart and Holy Family Hospital in Spokane.
Life after vaccination
Being fully vaccinated allows the safe return of some pre-pandemic activities, such as indoor dinners with friends, holidays with relatives and travel, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
For Gov. Inslee, that’s meant quality time with the youngest members of his family.
“There’s nothing better than hugging your grandkids, any grandparent will tell you that,” he said Tuesday. “My wife and I feel that’s a particular blessing we didn’t have for about a year. To have that back in our lives is a particular joy for us.”
It’s been about four months since the first vaccine shipments arrived in Snohomish County.
Back then, we were less than a year into the pandemic. The third wave, which outpaced the rest by a wide margin, was in full swing.
But in the time since, county providers have administered more than 500,000 doses, fueled by the work of volunteers, health care workers and first responders.
As someone who’s spent the past 13 months reading and writing about COVID, it’s incredible how far we’ve come in such a short time.
That’s all I could think before getting my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week, at a park-and-ride in Lynnwood.
Previously, I had hoped to be vaccinated at Angel of the Winds Arena, so I could be distracted by the surrounding art while being poked with a needle. That, or Costco, so I could get a hot dog after.
But with the arena site closed, I happily took what I could get.
The shot, 13 months in the making, lasted a second or two. And after 15 minutes, the process was over.
A few days later, the renewed sense of optimism was worth the sore arm.