After weeks of being shorted on COVID-19 vaccine allocations from the state, Clark County is receiving a significant vaccine allocation boost — more than triple as many first doses as it usually does in a week.
On Monday afternoon, Clark County Public Health announced the county will receive 14,140 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week. Through 11 weeks, Clark County has averaged only 4,175 first doses from the state.
The county will also receive 8,880 second doses of Pfizer vaccine, according to the state Department of Health.
Clark County was originally estimated to get 12,524 doses (7,011 first and 5,513 booster doses) this week from the state, so the new allocation represents a nearly 10,500-dose increase.
In an email, Department of Health spokeswoman Shelby Anderson said the state would continue to “work with Clark County Public Health and Providers to get them additional vaccines” next week.
Since the mass vaccination site at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds is focusing on administering second doses for one more week, the first doses will be sent to local medical providers and other local vaccinators.
Those providers have borne the brunt of Clark County’s vaccine shortage, because most doses have been directed to the fairgrounds since it became a mass vaccine site in late January.
“We’re thrilled to see the increase in COVID-19 vaccine allocation to Clark County this week,” said Clark County Board of Health Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien. “The additional vaccine will ensure more community members can be protected against COVID-19.”
Data showed disparities
The vaccine increase comes almost one week after Clark County Public Health provided a data analysis to The Columbian looking at the five counties with the highest, lowest and median population sizes. That analysis revealed Clark County ranks 14th out of 15 in the allocation of first doses per 1,000 residents and first-dose allocation as a percentage of the total county population.
The data analysis placed pressure on the state to explain and make up for the disparity in allocation.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, pressed Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah about the issue last week at a congressional hearing, and the Clark County Board of Health sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, calling on him to remedy the issue.
A group of Southwest Washington legislators also met with Shah on Saturday to further discuss allocation. Sen. Annette Cleveland, a Democrat from Vancouver, said in an email that she left the meeting confident about allocation for Clark County moving forward.
“I understand that anytime there is scarcity, there are tensions,” Cleveland said. “Our public health experts have been working night and day to respond to this pandemic for almost a year now. I continue to wholeheartedly support their efforts, and I am confident the Department of Health is responding to our concerns and will work to ensure our residents receive equitable doses of vaccine going forward.”
The shortage in vaccine has led to inequity in Clark County’s vaccination rollout. Because so much vaccine has been directed to Clark County’s mass vaccination site, the rollout has become a lottery-like system, where those with reliable transportation and internet access have much better chances at being vaccinated.
It has also slowed down Clark County Public Health’s work to pair people from its vaccination request list to vaccine. So far, Public Health has referred close to 29,000 people to local providers for vaccination and 19,730 people are waiting for referrals.
In terms of local providers, Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center will get around 4,000 doses this week, after averaging 1,250 doses for its last two weekly allocations.
Vancouver Clinic should receive 3,500 first doses, after receiving zero last week. PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center will go from zero first doses last week to 3,500 this week.
Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said in a Monday media briefing that medical providers have the infrastructure in place to handle the increase in vaccine.
Medical providers have been requesting more vaccine for weeks, but have been denied, he said.
“We can get this vaccine into people’s arms quickly. (Providers) have been ready to go,” Melnick said. “They have the staff and facilities to do a lot of vaccinations.”
Mobile teams rolling
Now that Clark County has a larger vaccine stash, it can begin to roll out more community vaccination clinics. That work began Monday, and will continue Tuesday, as Clark County Public Health sends mobile vaccination teams to several housing authority facilities. Volunteers will vaccinate seniors living in the facilities.
Later this week, mobile teams will also return to adult family homes to provide second doses to residents and staff who received their first doses from mobile teams in early February.
There are also plans to create additional mobile and fixed-location vaccination sites, according to Melnick.
The sites will emphasize equity and be positioned at locations where residents have not been able to easily access vaccine and among communities and populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“I see it as a really positive sign,” Melnick said of the boost. “I think it signals that moving forward there will be more collaborative work around getting an equitable allocation to the counties.”