SPOKANE — After federal agencies approved the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use this weekend, the Western States Pact met Monday to review the third COVID-19 vaccine.
The Department of Health expects to hear and act on the Pact’s recommendation late Monday or Tuesday. The pact is made up of the governors of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Colorado, who work together to coordinate coronavirus policies.
It is still not clear if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be targeted to certain groups, communities or settings in Washington.
Washington is still in the first tier of Phase 1B of its vaccination prioritization plan. This means that health care workers, first responders and residents older than 65, and those over the age of 50 in multigenerational households can get vaccinated.
Thus far, 1.5 million doses have been administered, and more than 1 million residents have initiated the vaccination process according to state data, but there are still hundreds of thousands of residents currently eligible who have yet to get access to the vaccine.
There are more than 2.3 million Washington residents currently eligible to get the vaccine, including those living and working in long-term care settings, according to department estimates.
Health officials hope the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine , compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that require two doses, will help speed vaccination efforts in the state.
The third vaccine also is not dependent on ultra-cold storage like the other two vaccines, which make it more ideal for providers or settings without the freezers and technology needed to store the other vaccines.
Washington likely will receive 60,900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of the week, but the department has not determined where they are sending those doses yet.
The most densely populated parts of Washington will need more doses in the coming weeks to catch up with more rural parts of the state in vaccination efforts.
Finding vaccine doses for health care workers and patients alike had been a challenge up until very recently at Puget Sound Kidney Centers, Harold Kelly, the chief executive, told reporters on Monday.
“We still have many, many staff members that need to get their vaccine and a ton of patients that need to get their vaccine,” he said.
The Puget Sound Kidney Centers’ staff treat hundreds of patients each week, many of whom are getting dialysis and at high-risk of complications should they contract COVID-19, Kelly said.
The centers planned to coordinate vaccines for their its patients with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but when those plans fell through, they asked the Washington State Hospital Association for connections to local providers for doses.
Kelly said the Puget Sound Kidney Centers applied to be a vaccine distributor through the Department of Health but has yet to receive doses. He estimates that about 15% to 20% of their patients have initiated vaccination. With prioritization and support of other local providers, leaders hope those numbers will improve in the coming weeks.
The Department of Health has revamped its webpage of vaccine locations, which shows providers that have appointments available in each county. This week, Washington was projected to receive 156,640 first doses and 123,160 second doses.
Here’s a look at local numbers:
The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 53 new cases on Monday and four additional deaths.
There have been 583 COVID-19 deaths confirmed in Spokane County.
Currently, there are 51 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane hospitals.
The Panhandle Health District confirmed 71 new cases over the weekend and on Monday. The district also confirmed two additional deaths; 263 Panhandle residents have died from the virus.
There are 20 Panhandle residents hospitalized with COVID-19.