A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 8 at Queen Anne Healthcare, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 8 at Queen Anne Healthcare, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Short on doses, county’s drive-thru vaccinations are on pause

Appointments won’t be accepted again until new shipments arrive — next week at the soonest.

EVERETT — Mobile mass vaccination clinics are the clearest path to getting COVID vaccine shots into arms, state leaders and public health experts say.

But in Snohomish County, a low supply of doses is getting in the way of three such sites, in Everett, Lynnwood and Monroe. Combined, they can administer 30,000 shots each week, but the county’s stock is so low that one hasn’t operated since Tuesday. All of them have stopped scheduling appointments.

“We know the reality is we do not have enough vaccine supply,” state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said during a news conference Thursday. “We’re doing everything we can behind the scenes to move or transition or support vaccination efforts throughout the state.”

Last week, that included the state shifting an additional 1,000 doses from a Whidbey Island hospital to Snohomish County after the county received less than 5% of the state’s total weekly allotment.

More doses should land in the county next week, but it’s unclear how many will go to the drive-thru clinics or when they’ll resume scheduling appointments.

People can check the status of the clinics at snohd.org/564/COVID-Vaccine-Info. The health district is working on a phone line for folks to call, but it hadn’t been set up as of Thursday.

Earlier this week, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said it was frustrating that the county had three sites ready to go, but not enough vaccine to operate at full capacity.

Shah spoke Thursday with Snohomish Health District Administrator Shawn Fredrick about the need to get larger shipments to the county.

“We don’t have it all solved,” Shah said. “But we’re confident we’re going to continue to make progress on this.”

Each week, the Department of Health gets an estimate of how many doses it will receive from the federal government.

The state’s strategy for distributing those doses to counties is a blend of geographic equity and how ready a locality is to administer the vaccine.

“We have to make decisions to get shots in arms,” Gov. Jay Inslee said during a Thursday news conference.

The governor also called on private hospitals and clinics to “hustle up” in administering all their doses.

The supply shortage comes the same week the state advanced to Phase 1B of its vaccine plan, allowing everyone 65 or over to get a shot, in theory. A wave of 200,000 county residents were newly eligible, but there are few options for actually getting a first dose.

To determine your eligibility, and to find vaccine clinics in your area, visit FindYourPhaseWA.org, or call 800-525-0127.

Despite the slow rollout of the vaccine, state leaders say the capacity to administer doses is growing daily. In the past week, the state has averaged about 16,000 doses per day. And the number continues to grow, Shah said.

Now, the state is working on building the capacity to vaccinate 45,000 people per day.

To reach that goal, Washington must receive about three times the weekly supply it’s currently getting, Inslee said.

“If we are going to fully utilize the mass vaccination sites in Snohomish County, we simply have to get more doses from the federal government,” Inslee said. “We need those doses.”

The governor added that recent actions by President Joe Biden make him hopeful to hit that target.

On Thursday, Biden signed an order allowing the federal government to require private companies to produce key vaccine and testing supplies, including syringes, vials and swabs, through the Defense Production Act.

“We’re in a national emergency and it’s time we treat it like one,” the president said during a news conference. “The more people we vaccinate, and the faster we do this, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us.”

Biden is also ordering the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard to set up 100 vaccination sites across the country.

It’s part of his plan to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

“We’ll move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated for free,” Biden said, “and create more places where people can get vaccinated.”

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

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