County leaders push state to move up in vaccination phases

In a letter to Gov. Inslee, they are seeking the authority to begin vaccinating more people.

EVERETT — Nearly a year after the nation’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Everett, Snohomish County elected leaders are urging the state for permission to move into the next phase of vaccinations.

In a letter sent to the governor’s office Friday, the county made its request to begin phase 1B to vaccinate a wider swath of residents. The appeal also highlights the need for more doses in Snohomish County.

“The public is demanding that we take these urgent steps, and we know this is the right thing to do,” the letter said in part. “We need to increase the number of people eligible for vaccination and increase the supply of vaccine to meet the demand and our capacity to vaccinate.”

Signed by County Executive Dave Somers, County Council Chairwoman Stephanie Wright and Vice Chairwoman Megan Dunn, the correspondence details the county’s early success delivering the vaccine and its ability to do even better.

“We just want to make sure there is no ambiguity anywhere about our ability to take more vaccines and get them in peoples’ arms if a supply becomes available,” county spokesperson Kent Patton said.

He said frustration has mounted with the federal government’s failure to supply enough doses. With the current rate of 2,000 to 3,000 doses each week, Patton said it would take years to vaccinate the approximately 880,000 residents of the county.

In the first month since the vaccine reached Snohomish County, about 40,000 doses have flowed into the county and 14,000 people have received their first shot.

With much of phase 1A nearing completion, Patton said there is concern that the county may run out of people to vaccinate. To his knowledge, no vaccines have been tossed to this point, but it is a risk if only certain people are eligible.

“We are going to have the infrastructure to be able to vaccinate everyone, but we need to be able to move quickly and not be held back through the various vaccine phases if we have the ability to move more quickly than others,” Patton said.

In a move to phase 1B, four tiers of groups — about 200,000 people — would become eligible for the vaccine.

First up in that phase is anyone 70 and older and those 50 or older who live in a multi-generational household. They’re followed by high-risk critical workers over 50 who work in certain congregate settings like schools, jails, grocery stores and farms in the second tier.

In the third tier, people over 16 years old with multiple underlying conditions would be next. Then, the fourth tier includes high-risk critical workers younger than 50 and those who live and work in congregate settings like inmates, homeless people staying in shelters and residents of group homes.

“Given the authorization to do so, our team can begin vaccinating all of phase 1B and stay within the spirit of the Department of Health’s guidance by prioritizing the tiers within that phase,” the letter said.

In an email, Tara Lee, communications director for Gov. Inslee, said the letter was still being reviewed. She was unaware of any other counties making a similar request.

Lee said more information on vaccines would be available early next week.

People can visit www.FindYourPhaseWA.org to find out when they’re eligible for a vaccine. Those eligible can visit www.snohd.org/564/COVID-Vaccine-Info to register for the first of their two shots.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

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