Snohomish County’s boosted vaccine supply still isn’t enough

The county’s drive-thru clinics could adminster 50,000 shots a week. This week, they’re getting 3,500.

EVERETT — Snohomish County is receiving more than 10% of the state’s vaccine allotment, but that’s not enough to keep all four drive-thru clinics open each week and meet the demand of providers.

This week, about 15,000 doses are coming to Snohomish County — 9,050 for first shots and 5,900 for second ones.

“That’s 9,000 doses and 100,000 eligible people hoping to get vaccinated,” Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said during a Tuesday media briefing. “So, it’s just a fraction of what we needed to be able to satisfy the demand, to address the frustrations that everyone’s experiencing and to fulfill that desire that everyone in the county must have, or most everyone must have, to be vaccinated.”

Since early January, the Snohomish County Vaccine Taskforce has grown capacity to administer doses quickly by setting up four drive-thru vaccination sites. Combined, they have capacity for 50,000 shots a week. But appointments have been hard to secure, especially for the county’s oldest residents.

And on Monday and Tuesday, the sites in Everett, Lynnwood and Monroe were closed due to lack of doses. The Arlington site remained open.

A fifth site, a mass walk-in clinic, is ready to go, county Department of Emergency Management Director Jason Biermann said Tuesday. But it won’t open until supply increases.

There are plans for two additional walk-in clinics, too, he added.

Statewide, more than 1,000 hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and health jurisdictions are approved to administer COVID vaccines.

This week, a combined 165,725 doses are going to 612 of them, “which is less than a third of what providers asked for,” Department of Health spokesperson Shelby Anderson said in an email.

Each week, the federal government tells states how much vaccine they’re getting, and state leaders decide where to distribute the supply.

Early on in the vaccine rollout, Snohomish County was getting less than 5% of the state’s allotment each week.

That prompted local leaders to press the governor for more vaccine.

Last week, the county received its biggest shipment, yet — about 17,000 doses.

But even with a more equitable supply, it’s not enough. Because when doses arrive, they go quickly.

Appointments across the county are filled within hours of being posted, leaving many older residents waiting for their potentially life-saving shots.

Last week, more than 13,000 shots were administered.

In total, more than 45,000 county residents have received their first shot of the vaccine, while another 8,500 have received both doses. But there’s still about 200,000 to go in the first tier of Phase 1B.

Countywide, the state has approved nearly 100 Snohomish County hospitals, clinics and pharmacies to give out the vaccine. About half have received doses.

However, the health district has declined to make public how much vaccine each provider receives, citing security concerns.

The state Department of Health website lists appointment information for more than a dozen county vaccine clinics, including the drive-thru sites in Everett, Lynnwood, Monroe and Arlington, as well as Costco, QFC, Providence, The Everett Clinic, Skagit Regional Clinics, EvergreenHealth Monroe, North Sound Pediatrics and SeaMar Community Health Center.

As of Tuesday afternoon, none of them had open slots.

The difficulty in securing a dose has frustrated some older residents in the county who lack internet access or the computer savvy to find an appointment.

The Snohomish Health District now has a phone line people can call to try and schedule their shots — 425-339-5278.

Additionally, the vaccine task force is considering setting aside certain hours at sites for residents 65 and over, similar to what grocery stores have done during the pandemic, Biermann said.

Also on Tuesday, the Biden administration announced a nationwide program to boost shipments to pharmacies across the country, including deliveries to all 170 Albertsons, Safeway and Kroger stores in Washington.

The grocers could begin vaccinations as early as Feb. 11, Albertsons Companies said in a news release.

To try to make an appointment, visit www.mhealthappointments.com/covidappt. Appointments for Albertsons, Safeway and Haggen must be made online.

As of Tuesday afternoon, no slots were available.

While the vaccine rollout continues to frustrate many across the county, recent data show pandemic metrics are continuing to improve.

The county’s rolling case rate declined for the third straight week, the health district reported Monday.

In the 14-day period ending Saturday, there were 184 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents. In the previous count, there were 249 per 100,000.

At the same time, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus are also dropping.

This came as Snohomish County, along with a few others, entered the second phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan.

In Phase 2, restaurants, bowling alleys, movie theaters and museums can welcome customers back indoors — at limited capacity.

However, any indoor activity presents some risk of catching COVID, Spitters said. To best protect yourself, wear a mask as much as possible, keep your distance from others and increase ventilation.

“That’s the best we can do, and I think that’s reasonably safe, certainly safer than it was a month ago,” Spitters said. “That’s why we moved into Phase 2. People who want an absolute guarantee about zero risk, we’re not there. So, then you have to make decisions for yourself from there.”

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

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