Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Clark County in March 2020, Janice Hayden and her husband, Carroll Hayden, have felt a sense of exposure in their lives.
The Haydens, who are in their 80s, live in north Vancouver with two grandchildren, a daughter who is a teacher and a son-in-law who works outside the home.
“We’ve felt somewhat vulnerable,” Janice Hayden said of COVID-19.
Living in a multigenerational home at their age makes them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and succumbing to serious symptoms from the virus. But they also fall into Washington’s Phase 1B-1 of COVID-19 vaccination.
That meant that on Tuesday morning, they began to feel some of that vulnerability lift. The Haydens were two out of hundreds of people vaccinated during opening day at the county’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site.
“I’m relieved,” Carroll Hayden said, sitting with his wife in their car after being vaccinated. “There’s so much anxiety. Since March, this whole thing has been escalating. You’re almost trapped in a situation that you can’t figure out how to get out of.”
The mass vaccination site, located at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds near Ridgefield, is one of only four state-run mass vaccination sites in Washington. The site appears to be on pace to administer nearly 1,000 more vaccine doses than expected this week.
The Washington State Department of Health has reported that the four mass vaccination sites would administer about 500 doses per day once they are fully ramped up, but in the fairgrounds’ first day, there were roughly 250 more doses on hand, according to Albertsons/Safeway spokesperson Stephen Certo.
That means the fairgrounds has capacity for nearly 3,000 doses this week, since the site is open for four days — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.
“We just get the allotment based on what the county gets, and we’re here to help provide the vaccinations along with the National Guard,” Certo said.
The news of extra doses is a rare bright spot during a pandemic where testing and vaccination rollouts have encountered numerous setbacks. The state’s four mass vaccination sites experienced problems with a slow rollout of information and confusion on Monday over how to book appointments at sites.
All fairgrounds appointments for this week are booked. A Department of Health spokesperson said appointments will become available again once the state knows how many vaccines will be allocated to Clark County next week. That will likely happen toward the end of the week.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday afternoon that Washington expects a 16 percent increase in its vaccination allocation over the next few weeks. That news came after President Joe Biden announced the U.S. government had purchased 200 million more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Washington is also getting specialized syringes that can pull one extra dose out of vaccine vials, further increasing vaccine supply, Inslee announced.
For the time being, though, many are left waiting for a COVID-19 inoculation.
Getting vaccinated in Clark County right now is something akin to winning a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Vaccine supply in the county is in the low thousands, with potentially as many as 75,000 people eligible for the vaccine locally in the current phase alone.
That’s why many residents at the fairgrounds Tuesday had a smile on their face, under their mask.
Karen Lofgren, a 65-year-old Ridgefield resident, brought her grandson with her when she got vaccinated Tuesday. She said she was “pumped” to get the vaccine, and that everyone was friendly and helpful.
Vicki Holman was more matter-of-fact about her vaccination. She said it’s one more thing to check off her to-do list.
“I planned on getting the vaccine, and I’m glad that I got it,” Holman said.
While Janice Hayden felt some relief Tuesday, she said she’s more excited to return on Feb. 16 for her second and final dose.
“I feel grateful,” she said, “but I’ll feel a whole lot better when I get my second one.”