State health officials lay out next steps for vaccines

Vaccination efforts have moved more slowly than officials would like, with the logistics complicating rollout.

Everyone over 70 years old and anyone over 50 who lives in a multigenerational household will be the next priorities for COVID-19 vaccines in Washington, health officials said Wednesday.

Newly installed Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah told an online media briefing that the state remains in the first phase of vaccination distribution, with high-risk health-care workers, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities first in line. But he said that within two or three weeks the state should be able to move to Phase B1, which will focus on all residents over 70 and those over 50 who live in multigenerational households.

That will be followed sometime next month by Phase B2, with vaccinations for high-risk critical workers over 50 who work in certain congregate settings like schools, jails, grocery stores and farms. Officials hope to get to those over 16 years old who have multiple underlying conditions in March. High-risk critical workers younger than 50 and those who live and work in other congregate settings — including inmates, homeless people staying in shelters and residents of group homes — would be eligible in April.

Vaccination efforts so far have moved more slowly than officials would like, with 126,602 of the 522,550 doses the state has received being administered, with the holidays and the scale of the logistical problem complicating the rollout.

“We’re continuing to look at how we can speed up the process,” Shah said. “That is our No. 1 priority.”

The state next week plans to launch a new online dashboard, called PhaseFinder, to help people better track their eligibility for a vaccine.

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