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Monday, October 2, 2023
Oct. 2, 2023

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Melnick: Clark County near bottom of vaccine allocation in Washington

Clark County has received 94.1 doses per 1,000 people; close in population size Spokane County has received 145.9 doses per 1,000

By , Columbian staff writer

The Clark County Board of Health agreed Wednesday morning to send a letter to state leaders seeking information regarding why the state has been supplying fewer COVID-19 vaccine doses to Clark County, according to a Clark County Public Health data analysis.

The goal of the letter is to ask the state to increase Clark County’s vaccine allocation to make it more in line with the county’s population and capacity to administer vaccine.

Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy first proposed the letter at Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting. The letter, which could be finished as soon as this afternoon or evening, will likely be sent to Gov. Jay Inslee, state legislators and the Washington State Board of Health.

“We need to get this message out,” Medvigy said Wednesday. “We always, as a county, wanted to be a model of distribution and always in the position where we had more capacity to vaccinate than we had vaccines. We didn’t want the state to say, ‘Hey you’re not getting them out. We’re not going to give you more vaccines.’ So we’ve done all that. We have our infrastructure in place and we have the capacity up.”

Public Health’s data analysis of 15 Washington counties looked at the five counties with the highest, lowest and median population sizes. Despite being the state’s fifth-largest county, Clark County ranks 14th out of the 15 counties compared in the allocation of first doses per 1,000 residents and first-dose allocation as a percentage of the total county population.

The data, which was shared Tuesday night by Public Health with The Columbian, shows that Ferry County is the only county in the 15-county comparison that received fewer doses per 1,000 people than Clark County. Ferry County has a population of about 7,600, compared with Clark County’s 488,000 residents.

Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick told the Board of Health on Wednesday that the public has become frustrated because Clark County is near the bottom of Washington counties for vaccine administration on a per 100,000 population basis.

According to the data, the state has allocated 45,950 first doses of vaccine to Clark County over the last 11 weeks. That means Clark County has received 94.1 doses per 1,000 people — doses for 9.4 percent of Clark County’s population.

The next largest county, Spokane County, has received 30,325 more first doses than Clark County, even though Spokane County has only 35,000 more residents. Spokane County has received 145.9 doses per 1,000 people, or doses for 14.6 percent of their population.

The largest counties – King, Snohomish and Pierce counties – all received far more vaccine doses per 1,000 than Clark County (132.4, 121.1 and 111.9 doses per 1,000 people, respectively).

Clark County has administered 44,941 doses of the vaccine and 16,928 residents are fully vaccinated, receiving both doses. According to state Department of Health data, 8.26 percent of Clark County’s population has received one dose of the vaccine and 3.47 percent have received both doses.

In Spokane County, those numbers 13.48 percent and 5.28 percent, respectively.

“The providers have the capacity to give the vaccine and they’d be giving it if they had the vaccine to give,” Melnick said. “Our issue right now is vaccine allocation and how many doses we are getting.”

Melnick said the state determines vaccine allocation based on population size, vaccine throughput – how much vaccine a county is capable of administering – and other metrics.

Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien said she’s frustrated by the data, referencing a chart with allocation statistics shown at Wednesday’s meeting.

“If (the state is) using metrics to distribute the vaccines, looking at this chart it does not look fair,” Quiring O’Brien said. “This is not our fault. Our public health department has an incident management team that is ready to administer vaccines. We have health care partners who are ready, willing and able to distribute vaccines. We don’t have the product to give. I just think it needs to be stated that it’s not the county who is doing this, as far as limiting supply or not acting in an efficient way.”

Columbian staff writer