After weeks of smaller COVID-19 vaccine allocations from the state, thousands of vaccine doses are on their way to Clark County to make up for disparities that have existed in the state’s initial rollout.
A data analysis provided to The Columbian Tuesday night made the disparity public and has since put pressure on Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Department of Health to make up for it.
Sen. Annette Cleveland, a Democrat from Vancouver, told The Columbian Friday that Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told her on Thursday night that Clark County would begin receiving “thousands” of doses next week to make up for the disparity, and Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick also confirmed that.
While it’s not known exactly how many doses will be received for all providers, Vancouver Clinic Spokeswoman Chastell Ely said that Vancouver Clinic is expecting to receive 3,500 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for next week. The previous allocation Vancouver Clinic received was zero doses of that vaccine.
Vancouver Clinic will also receive 500 second doses of the Moderna vaccine.
“It’s a sizeable allocation this next week,” Ely said.
Vancouver Clinic patients who are older than 76 will get an alert on their MyChart to schedule an appointment next week. Vancouver Clinic will also reach out directly to patients without a MyChart to help them schedule appointments, and Vancouver Clinic will take some referrals for vaccination from Clark County Public Health, who is keeping a list of people in need of vaccination.
Vancouver Clinic will work its way from older patients first to 65 and older in time, Ely said.
Ryan Erlewine, director of pharmacy and clinical support services at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, said Legacy Salmon Creek’s allotment of vaccine is supposed to be about 4,000 vaccine doses next week, which is up from their average of around 1,250 doses over the last two allocations.
Erlewine said part of the increase is tied to being able to draw more doses from a vial now, but said the uptick is noticeable.
“That is an increase from what we have been seeing,” he said.
Erlewine said dose allocation has actually started to perk up more in the last couple of weeks. He said Legacy Salmon Creek has administered about 16,000 doses of vaccine with roughly 9,000 as first shots and 7,000 as booster shots.
Legacy Salmon Creek averages about 510 patients per day over five days a week and works with local partners to ensure communities of color and older, high-risk populations are not left out.
“We’re committed to making sure everyone has an equal opportunity to get the vaccine,” he said.
Melnick said he still has not received a good explanation for why the disparity came to be in the first place. Melnick is part of a workgroup where local health jurisdictions work with the state Department of Health to examine vaccine allocation.
The workgroup is focused on communication and transparency, and Melnick said shared decision-making around vaccine allocation is also a possibility.
Melnick said that in one recent week Vancouver Clinic had a request for 2,340 doses of vaccine denied by the state. He also said the state took weeks to approve Vancouver Clinic’s freezer for storing the Pfizer vaccine.
Other local medical providers have also been denied vaccine requests, despite having the ability to store and administer thousands of doses each week.
Melnick said that when the mass vaccination site opened in Clark County earlier this year, problems started to appear.
“When the spot opened up at the fairgrounds, our providers got less vaccine,” he said.
A group of Southwest Washington legislators are planning on meeting with Shah and other Department of Health representatives on Saturday morning to get further clarification around vaccine allocation.
Cleveland, who will be at the meeting, said she believes the issue will be straightened out soon, also citing Friday’s news that Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine will soon be available to the public.
“It’s looking hopeful,” she said.