Dr. George Diaz is vaccinated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Dec. 18. (Providence)

Dr. George Diaz is vaccinated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Dec. 18. (Providence)

11,000 in county have received first shot of COVID vaccine

The health district is working to speed the vaccination process and get more shots into arms.

EVERETT — More than 11,000 people in Snohomish County have received their first dose of a COVID vaccine, weeks after the first shipments landed.

Local health care providers have received about 40,000 doses so far, with another 8,000 on the way this week, health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said at a media briefing Tuesday.

Now it’s a matter of injecting them in people’s arms.

“That just speaks to the difficulty of getting the capacity to administer (vaccines) up,” Spitters said. “We’re on our way. We’re making progress, but like any process, it takes a little while to reach full speed.”

The early doses are reserved for health care workers, as well as residents and staff at long-term care homes, with a few exceptions for first responders. In total, that’s about 28,000 people expected to get the vaccine in the first phase.

Countywide, a fifth of COVID hospitalizations, and half of all deaths, are linked to long-term care homes.

Protecting those facilities, and keeping hospital staff healthy, will give the county “quite a buffer” in its fight against the pandemic, Spitters said.

The first class of recipients has since been broadened to include all health care workers and some first responders, in an effort to avoid doses going unused.

On Wednesday, the state Department of Health is expected to outline who will be included in the next phase of vaccinations.

The federal government recommends doses for anyone 75 and older, first responders, grocery store workers, school staff and teachers, and food production employees, among others.

Before that can happen, the state, county and health care providers need to beef up infrastructure for administering doses.

To prepare, the state has approved 40 vaccine providers in Snohomish County, while another 50 providers have applications pending, Spitters said.

Additionally, the Snohomish Health District is making plans for vaccination clinics of its own, similar to the district’s five drive-thru testing sites throughout the county.

“The eye is on the prize, which is getting everyone in Snohomish County who wants to get vaccinated, vaccinated,” Spitters said.

The state has similar plans, as well, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday at a news briefing.

As the vaccine phases progress, the state will roll out a website to help people find when they’re eligible for a shot.

In Snohomish County, the first COVID vaccinations occurred in mid-December at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

So far, about 3,200 staff members have received their first dose, hospital spokesperson Casey Calamusa said.

On Saturday, staff are set to start administering final doses for the first batch of caregivers.

“The vast majority of vaccinations have gone well and are uneventful,” Calamusa said. “In a few instances, people had reactions that usually occur within the first 15 minutes after vaccination. We are prepared to treat those reactions when they occur, and all the caregivers have recovered.”

At Stanwood’s Josephine Caring Community, vaccinations started on Dec. 27 for residents and staff.

So far, nearly 40% of employees have gotten their first shot, along with 90% of residents, said the facility’s CEO Terry Robertson.

Those numbers are expected to grow on Jan. 17 when the center is set to have another vaccination clinic, he said.

Josephine was originally to get doses from the national pharmacy chain CVS, but Robertson opted for Redmond-based Consonus Healthcare, which could deliver shots two weeks sooner.

In late October, the Stanwood facility was hit with a COVID outbreak that would grow to be the largest seen at any long-term care home in the state.

Since that outbreak, more than 170 staff and residents have been infected with the virus, and 29 have died, according to health district spokesperson Heather Thomas.

In Everett, Sunrise View Convalescent Center and Retirement Villa, one out of the dozens of other local long-term care facilities that have faced an outbreak, is scheduled to get its first round of vaccinations on Jan. 14, facility administrator Dave Kiefer said.

As of Monday, 54 employees and 74 residents of Sunrise had signed up for the first Pfizer vaccination clinic, to be administered by Walgreens, he said.

Two more rounds will follow on Feb. 4 and Feb. 25.

The long-term care facility, which includes skilled nursing and assisted living, has seen more than 75 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, according to the Snohomish Health District.

It has about 80 staff members and 80 residents, said Kiefer, who is taking over for administrator Diane Lopes when she retires this week.

Herald reporters Eric Stevick and Rachel Riley contributed to this story.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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