We’ve got lots of vaccination capacity, but too few doses

The county set up drive-thru clinics quickly. But it’s still difficult to make an appointment.

EVERETT — It’s been three weeks since Snohomish County’s first drive-thru vaccine clinic opened at Paine Field in Everett.

Since then, three more have popped up — at Edmonds College in Lynnwood, the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe and, most recently, Arlington Municipal Airport.

Combined, vaccinators at the sites have administered more than 15,000 doses, about a third of all shots given in the county since shipments started arriving in mid-December.

“We’re three weeks into this, while others are just getting started,” Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management Director Jason Biermann said Friday. “I’m very proud of our team.”

The plans for the sites have been in the works for years, long before COVID.

That’s what allowed the county to get them set up quickly, before any other county in the state could do so.

Despite the success in ramping up capacity across the county, doses have been in short supply. That’s caused headaches for people trying to schedule their shot as appointments fill up in mere hours.

With 200,000 people newly eligible for a shot, and about 17,000 doses coming to the county each week, the struggle to get a slot will likely continue.

“We made a decision early on we were not going to schedule appointments until we know we had vaccine,” Biermann said.

Meanwhile, the state is approving more local vaccine providers.

Costco stores in Everett and Marysville opened appointment slots for the first time Friday. They were quickly filled.

The county has plans for three or four more vaccination sites, in addition to some mobile clinics, which would bring capacity to more than 50,000 doses per week.

Before that can happen, the number of doses coming to the county each week needs to increase.

“Once we have a stable and consistent vaccine supply, we can have stable and consistent appointment availability,” Biermann said.

Nationwide, vaccine supply is expected tick upward over the next few weeks.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that states including Washington will see a 16% increase in deliveries each week, starting with the next shipment.

The increased supply will come with special syringes that can extract extra doses from vials of the Pfizer vaccine.

Meanwhile, vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca could soon receive emergency approval from the federal government.

Countywide, about 250,000 people in all have been or are eligible for a COVID vaccine, and 40,000 have received at least one dose.

Scheduling your shot

There’s still no perfect way to secure a vaccination.

However, qualifying residents can visit www.snohd.org/564/COVID-Vaccine-Info to schedule an appointment, when they are available, at the county’s drive-thru sites in Everett, Lynnwood, Monroe and Arlington.

People without internet access can reach the county’s COVID-19 call center at 425-339-5278.

Additionally, the state Department of Health website has a list of private vaccine providers. Before searching for a clinic, first visit www.findyourphasewa.org to ensure you are eligible.

Shots at the county’s drive-thru sites are by appointment only. If you arrive without an appointment, you will likely be turned away.

On average, it takes about 30 minutes from arrival to departure, Biermann said. That includes the 15-minute waiting period after your shot, to monitor for adverse reactions.

Visitors at the Everett and Lynnwood sites will have their second shot scheduled after receiving their first. (If you’ve received your shot at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds, the county will reach out to you via email about your second dose.)

Recipients of the Pfizer vaccine are supposed to receive their second dose after three weeks. For the Moderna treatment, it’s four weeks.

However, it does not need to be exact, the health district says.

“If you get it at day 40, it’s still a good shot,” spokesperson Kari Bray said.

Additionally, the county’s providers receive separate shipments for first and second doses, so there’s no concern about not having enough supply to get everyone their second shot.

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

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