Scarcity of vaccine doses slows rollout in Snohomish County

Despite qualifying for the vaccine, people over age 65 may have to wait weeks for a shot.

Syringes are filled with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for high-risk workers in Virginia on Tuesday. (Joe Mahoney/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Syringes are filled with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for high-risk workers in Virginia on Tuesday. (Joe Mahoney/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

EVERETT — Getting a COVID vaccine in Snohomish County, as part of the state’s Phase 1B, will take time.

With about 200,000 county residents now eligible for the potentially life-saving shot, the demand to get a dose is high and the supply is low. At the current pace, it will take months to get vaccinations rolling for everyone in Phase 1B.

The issue: Hospitals, clinics and pharmacies may have enough doses, but they lack the space and capacity to administer them quickly. Public clinics in Everett, Lynnwood and Monroe, meanwhile, can inject shots at a high rate but lack the supply.

“The bottom line is we need more vaccines for our drive-thru sites,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said during a media briefing Tuesday. “I am frustrated and find it frustrating that we’re having to fight for extra doses.”

With the proper supply, the county’s vaccine clinics in Everett, Lynnwood and Monroe could combine for 30,000 to 50,000 shots per week, Somers said.

As of Tuesday, none of the drive-thru sites were scheduling shots due to low vaccine supply. It’s unclear when they will resume operation.

“We don’t have the vaccines to give out today,” Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said at a Tuesday media briefing. “We need folks to continue to be patient as the vaccine supply ramps up.”

The remaining doses went out Tuesday, where about a hundred cars lined the lanes at the drive-thru clinic at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe.

After hearing the governor’s announcement, JoAnn Becker, 66, got online Monday night and reserved an appointment for Tuesday at the Monroe site.

She also scheduled shots for two friends in their 80s.

“They went really quick,” she said. “By the time you submitted, most were gone.”

On Tuesday, the process of getting her shot took less than a hour.

“I think they really need to be commended,” she said. “It’s really, really cool. What a super group.”

However, last week a security lapse allowed some people who weren’t eligible for the vaccine to get shots at the drive-thru site in Monroe.

There are other options for getting your shots.

The Everett Clinic plans to make appointments for members of Phase 1B starting Wednesday, spokesperson Sam Templeton said in an email.

“Our COVID-19 vaccine supplies are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis,” he said.

The clinic’s shots are by appointment only. Patients can make an appointment through MyChart or by calling 425-339-4212.

“We do anticipate that the demand for COVID-19 vaccinations will result in available appointment spots filling up quickly,” Templeton said. “Each week the state of Washington will inform us how many doses The Everett Clinic will receive, and we will open a corresponding number of appointment spots. With limited supplies, we will not be able to meet the demand of all that desire vaccination.”

To check your eligibility for the vaccine, and to find other clinics where you can get vaccinated, visit FindYourPhaseWA.org, or call the state’s hotline at 800-525-0127.

Under the revised Phase 1B, you qualify for the vaccine if you are 65 or older, or 50 and older and living in a multigenerational household, as in a grandparent living with grandchildren.

The shift to Phase 1B, announced Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee, came with new rules for vaccine providers meant to speed up what has been a slow start to the state’s distribution plan.

One rule requires providers to administer 95% of their vaccine supply within a week of receiving the doses. This prevents them from reserving supply for second doses.

That decision means more people will get their first shot sooner, but it could put the state in a position where it doesn’t have enough doses to get everyone their second shot on time, if shipments slow.

“We’re at the mercy of that,” Spitters said.

Local leaders were already upset with the state over the county’s share of the statewide vaccine supply.

On Jan. 12, the Department of Health announced it would receive 123,275 doses in the coming week and distribute them to 142 county sites and 11 tribal or Urban Indian Health Program sites across Washington.

Of the total, 2,300 went to Snohomish County, prompting Somers’ office to ask the governor’s office for more. An additional 1,000 doses were secured by Friday.

And last week, the Trump administration announced it would release millions of doses previously reserved in a federal stockpile, which gave states, including Washington, hope for a stronger supply.

However, those vaccines had already been distributed, and the reserve was nearly empty.

“That was very hard news to take,” Somers said.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations from COVID remain at stable yet alarming levels.

On any given day in Snohomish County, 100 to 120 people are in local hospitals, sick with the virus.

Health officials are urging people to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing.

“We’re so close here,” Spitters said. “Vaccine alone is not going to open up society, in the short run.”

How can I get vaccinated in Snohomish County?

All adults in Washington over age 65 years became eligible for a vaccine this week, as well as adults over age 50 living in a multigenerational household.

To check your eligibility, visit FindYourPhaseWA.org, or call the state’s hotline at 800-525-0127.

The Everett Clinic is setting up shots by appointment only. Find out more through MyChart or by calling 425-339-4212.

None of the Snohomish County drive-thru sites were scheduling shots Tuesday due to low vaccine supply.

Data about vaccine distribution was available on a new state Department of Health dashboard at doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/COVID19/DataDashboard.

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

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