Thus far, it appears, the biggest issue with coronavirus inoculations is a shortage of vaccines. About one month since the rollout of vaccines approved by the federal government, demand is outstripping supply for the still-nascent vaccination programs in Clark County.
But while efforts to get vaccines into the arms of residents have been imperfect, progress is being made. Vaccinating a large percentage of some 330 million Americans — with two shots required per person — is a vast undertaking akin to a wartime commitment.
In Washington, several demographics are eligible to receive vaccinations at this point: Health care workers; all people 65 and older; and people 50 years and older who live in multigenerational households, are unable to live independently and are either receiving long-term care or living with someone who works outside the home. Eligibility can be confirmed at the state’s Phase Finder website.
Last week’s launch of a mass vaccination site at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds near Ridgefield — one of four large state-run facilities — has improved distribution. Early reports show that the site is delivering 700 shots per day, exceeding initial goals of 500 per day.
“We could not be more delighted about how functional this operation has been,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday during a visit to the site. “It has so quickly brought so many vaccinations in such a critical period of time.”
There are some drawbacks, however. Registration is available only online, leaving much of the most vulnerable population unable to sign up. In addition, access to the site usually requires a trip on Interstate 5, which many older citizens prefer to avoid.
While the vaccination site at the fairgrounds is the region’s largest and has received much media attention, it is important to stress that vaccinations are available from many health-care providers and some pharmacies. The state has an online list of locations.
All of that is helpful — provided that vaccines are available. As The Columbian reported Wednesday, vaccine allocation comes from the federal government, which has provided short notice to states about how many doses are available. States don’t know their supply until late each week, making it difficult to schedule appointments.
The Biden administration announced last week an agreement to purchase 200 million additional doses, increasing the total commitment to 600 million. “The brutal truth is, it’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated — months,” President Joe Biden said. “In the next few months, masks, not vaccines, are the best defense against COVID-19.”
Clark County recently received 3,725 doses of vaccines, with roughly 3,000 of those earmarked for the site at the fairgrounds. That is not enough to cover the estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Clark County residents now eligible for vaccinations; according to the county Public Health department, there are about 23,000 pending requests.
Compounding the issue is that the county has more than 250 adult family homes — the highest number per capita in the state. Dr. Alan Melnick, the county’s public health officer, said that mobile vaccine clinics would be helpful for efficiently distributing vaccines. “The last thing I want to see are doses of the vaccine that are sitting in the freezer or on the shelf,” he said.
All of this will require patience on the part of the public. And when the time comes, we recommend that all local residents receive vaccinations.