Pfizer COVID-19 vials are taken out of cold storage on Feb. 12 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Pfizer COVID-19 vials are taken out of cold storage on Feb. 12 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

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Snohomish County gets fewer first doses than usual this week

Most of the incoming supply is reserved for second shots, following a statewide policy.

EVERETT — Finding an appointment this week for the first shot of a COVID vaccine is going to be even harder than usual.

Snohomish County is set to receive 23,500 vaccine doses — 5,000 for first shots and 18,500 for second ones.

That’s about half of what the county got last week for first shots. The large proportion of second doses stems from a decision by the state Department of Health to ensure everyone completes the series of shots on time.

“While the limited availability of first doses will be challenging this coming week, focusing on second doses will help pave the way for an improved and more sustainable allocation of vaccines in future weeks,” state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said in a Friday news release.

Supply of the vaccine continues to be the single biggest issue the county, state and country face in getting shots into arms.

Recently, Snohomish County’s allotment each week from the Department of Health has been among the highest in the state, yet it only covers a fraction of the more than 100,000 residents who are eligible.

That has frustrated many older residents, who are the most vulnerable to severe disease from COVID but lack the tech savvy to scour multiple websites for an appointment or spend hours on hold with the state or health district.

But there is good news.

In Snohomish County, the health district is testing a new scheduling system for mass vaccination sites in Everett, Lynnwood, Monroe and Arlington that would include a wait list for those who fail to snag one of the limited appointments.

It could be up and running next week, health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said Tuesday.

For now, the best option is to keep trying the health district’s call center at 425-339-5278.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health is working on a website to centralize vaccine appointments across all providers. That way, people don’t have to check multiple websites to secure their shots.

At the same time, the federal government’s shipments to states have increased by nearly 50% in the past four weeks, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

And Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID vaccine could get emergency approval by the end of the month.

If approved, the drug maker could provide 100 million doses by the end of the month, federal officials said during a Tuesday call with governors.

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

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