Gov. Jay Inslee toured an Auburn pop-up clinic on Tuesday as the state continues to take a targeted approach to vaccinate harder-to-reach populations in areas where vaccination rates are down in Washington.
While vaccination numbers and equitable distribution of shots have gone up significantly because of mass vaccination sites, Inslee said a focus on certain regions in the state can help address a recent slow down.
The Auburn COVID-19 clinic at the Outlet Collection sees about 200 people each day. Staff are getting ready to shift to a smaller space to increase their efficiency.
“Having this facility in the southern part of the county, which has less uptake in the vaccine, is very, very important so that we can have as much equity in the administration of the vaccine as humanly possible,” Inslee said.
Inslee’s visit to the vaccination site comes as Washington state races to reach the 70% threshold of residents, ages 16 and older, with at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. Officials will continue to stick to the plan of reopening the state on June 30 or when the benchmark is met — whichever happens first, he said.
The vaccination rate in the state is at 67.8%, according to the state’s Department of Health.
Gaps in vaccine rates persist across several communities of color, particularly within the Black and Latino communities, which are projected to cross the threshold of 70% fully vaccinated up to 9 weeks later than other groups if current trends continue, according to a King County COVID Vaccine Delivery Strategy Report.
About 58% of south King County residents, which includes Auburn, are fully vaccinated, compared to 73% of east King County residents and 72% of north King County residents, according to the report.
Vaccination rates for King County’s Black residents stand at 47% and 48% for Hispanic and Latino residents. Vaccination rates among white, Asian American, Indigenous, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander residents are higher at 63%, 74%, 71%, and 68% respectively, according to the report.
The disparity in rates is what vaccine clinics are looking to address, said Mary Johnson, a vaccine registration administrator at the Auburn pop-up clinic.
Johnson walks patients, who don’t speak fluent English and may need a translator, through the vaccination process. She helps them know what they need to be aware of and how to set up their appointments for a second dose.
“I think we’ve removed the barriers to communication to really address the issues of the guests,” she said. “That takes a lot of pressure off of them.”
Inslee encouraged people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities. “You don’t have to be a heart surgeon, you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to save lives. This is a good time to love people.”
On Tuesday, Inslee also shared he plans to make a short-term extension to Washington’s statewide moratorium on evictions that was set to end June 30.
The short-term extension is meant to be a “bridge” to help while new programs and funding for renters and landlords passed by the Legislature start to take effect, according to his spokesperson Tara Lee.
More details on the new extension are expected to be released Thursday.