EVERETT — Snohomish County might have been the first in the state to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Friday at a new mass vaccination site at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
The single-shot vaccine, also known as the Janssen vaccine, got emergency federal approval last weekend and was OK’d by Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday. All 5,000 of the county’s allotted doses are to be administered at the Everett arena through next week, local leaders announced Friday.
Vaccinations at the new site are by appointment only through the new PrepMod.doh.wa.gov website. Those with limited or no internet access, or who need language support, can call the COVID-19 call center at 425-339-5278 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
All appointments for Friday and Saturday were filled.
“You may not get your vaccine today or this week, but keep trying, you will get one soon,” Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said during a Friday media briefing.
For teachers and child care workers in the county, the best way to get a shot is through an employer, Spitters said.
That way, the county’s five mass vaccination sites can continue serving older residents, who are more likely to experience severe illness or death from COVID.
The Snohomish Health District is working to connect school districts with pharmacies and for vaccine appointments for staff. At least two have clinics scheduled.
In Snohomish, the school district is partnering with Kusler’s Compounding Pharmacy for a clinic March 13-14 at Snohomish High School.
Educators in Everett are getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this weekend. The school district is working with The Everett Clinic and Safeway/Albertsons to administer shots to eligible staff.
Those Johnson & Johnson doses come from a federal program that gives them directly to local pharmacies.
Despite the early supply, the county, and rest of the state, won’t receive more doses of the single-shot vaccine until late this month as the manufacturer bolsters production.
Until then, local leaders are urging eligible residents to take whichever of the three vaccines is available.
Any of the vaccines
“As somebody who’s reviewed all the FDA and CDC guidance on this, I want to assure you that while you may think you have a preference of which vaccine you’d like to get, they’re all safe and effective,” Spitters said.
Across Washington, more than 1.8 million shots have been administered, and vaccination rates have improved as supply has grown.
On Friday, the state reached its goal of averaging 45,000 doses a day, the Department of Health announced.
Countywide, more than 100,000 people have received one dose of a vaccine, and another 53,000 are fully vaccinated, the health district said in a news release.
And all of the county’s 18 skilled nursing facilities, 46 assisted living centers and 615 adult family homes have had at least one vaccine clinic.
The county also partnered with Homage Senior Services on Thursday for a vaccine clinic for older, vulnerable adults.
Meanwhile, Providence’s Institute for a Healthier Community has been working with nonprofits to get doses to communities of color and marginalized populations.
While many aspects of the county’s vaccine rollout have improved in recent weeks, supply remains an issue.
Many people who got their first shot weeks ago at the county’s Arlington Municipal Airport site have yet to get instructions on scheduling a second dose.
“If folks are waiting, it’s simply because there’s no vaccine,” county Department of Emergency Management director Jason Biermann said Friday.
Some of those eager for an appointment are beyond the three-week target for their second Pfizer shot but aren’t allowed to make appointments anywhere else.
But there’s no need to restart the process if you exceed the recommended 21 or 28 days, or even the maximum six weeks, between shots, Spitters said.
Vaccines for teachers
While the decision to vaccinate teachers and school staff has brought excitement to educators and families, it’s unclear how much it will affect school re-openings, especially for high school students.
For now, the Edmonds School District is sticking with a plan to bring the youngest students back to class, with limited in-person instruction opportunities for older students, assistant superintendent Greg Schwab said.
The wild card, he said, is vaccine supply.
It’s possible that by the time all staff are vaccinated, the school year will be nearly over, leaving only a brief opportunity to bring students back to campuses, he said.
Across the state, school districts have been reopening at an uneven pace.
Most are bringing elementary grades back. A few, like the Sultan School District, have resumed in-person instruction for elementary and secondary students.
For months, state leaders and public health experts have made the case to teachers that in-person instruction is safer than they think, given the extensive safety measures required of districts.
While students or staff may bring COVID to school, data show that safety measures largely prevent the virus from spreading on campuses.
From August to February, there were 425 COVID-19 cases statewide linked to in-classroom transmission. Of those, none led to a hospitalization or death.
Last month, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that vaccinating teachers is not necessary to safely resume in-person instruction.
Meanwhile, Inslee offered districts state-funded, on-site COVID testing as an added security measure, which dozens of districts accepted.
Despite that, there continues to be reluctance among teachers to return to classrooms before they are vaccinated.
Moods may change now that all public and private school personnel are eligible for a shot, following a directive from President Joe Biden.
On Thursday, Inslee said he disagreed with Biden’s decision. The science, he said, proves that students can return safely with the proper safety measures.
“Science doesn’t change hearts,” Everett Education Association President Jared Kink said. “From my view, Biden made the right decision and it is the decision our governor should have made weeks ago.”