On Wednesday, an estimated 31,000 Clark County residents will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as Washington enters its next phase of the vaccine rollout.
While the early rollout was littered with long waits for vaccine, Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick sees the next phase going smoothly and quickly because of increases in vaccine supply.
“Given the amount of vaccine coming into the community, I’m optimistic that not only are we ready for this new group of people, but I think we’ll be able to get people vaccinated quickly and more efficiently than before,” Melnick said.
In January, vaccines became available to anyone older than 65, and people older than 50 who lived in multigenerational homes. But Clark County and most Washington counties struggled to quickly inoculate people.
There was significantly more demand than supply. Clark County’s rollout was further hindered by Washington shorting the county’s vaccine allocation, with that situation remedied only a couple of weeks ago.
How to get your shots
The next phase of vaccination -— Phase 1B, Tier 2 — for Washington begins Wednesday. Newly eligible are high-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings: agriculture, fishing vessel crews, food processing, grocery stores, corrections, prisons, jails or detention centers, public transit and remaining first responders. People 16 years or older who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness will also become eligible.
To find locations with vaccine available, visit https://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/VaccineLocations#Clark
You can also request vaccine through Clark County Public Health’s form: https://clark.kohezion.com/create_item_k.jsp?tId=13076615&pId=13076644&langCode=en
County data and anecdotal evidence suggests those problems are diminishing, and that vaccine availability is increasing.
In less than a month, Clark County’s vaccine supply has more than quadrupled. Through the first 11 weeks of Washington’s vaccine rollout, Clark County on average received roughly 4,100 first doses of the vaccine per week. In its latest vaccine allocation, the county received about 17,700 first doses.
The county has opened a vaccination site at Tower Mall in Vancouver, in addition to the mass vaccination site operating at the Clark County Event Center and Fairgrounds near Ridgefield.
The county has administered vaccines to adult family home residents and staff. Medical providers, clinics and pharmacies are seeing their vaccine supplies multiply.
Perhaps the most promising sign of how much progress has been made, and how much better this part of the rollout could go, is how much Clark County Public Health has worked through its wait list.
Just a few weeks ago, the county had more than 30,000 people waiting to be referred to a medical provider for vaccine. As of Monday afternoon, that number had plummeted to 291 people.
Those massive gains have been made despite the fact that Washington added educators and child care workers as an eligible population two weeks ago.
Clark County added roughly 19,000 eligible people in those occupations, but still made progress.
“The bottom line is we added folks recently and we are still down to 291 on the wait list,” Melnick said.
State Department of Health spokeswoman Shelby Anderson said in an email that state officials are confident about moving to the next phase, which was recently moved up by a full week.
The state has been vaccinating about 44,600 people per day in recent weeks, up from 26,000 people per day last month. More than 19 percent of Washingtonians have received a first vaccine dose and 11 percent are fully vaccinated, according to Anderson.
As of late February, 8.26 percent of Clark County’s population had received one dose and only 3.47 percent of the population was fully vaccinated. As of Monday afternoon, those numbers had jumped to 14.39 percent and 6.89 percent, respectively.
Anderson said Washington is consistently receiving 320,000 doses of vaccine each week.
According to a three-week vaccine allocation forecast from the state, Washington should receive more than 341,000 vaccine doses the week of March 28.
Anderson did say that if you are eligible but have still not been vaccinated, it would be a good idea to book an appointment before the next phase opens Wednesday.
“The Department of Health and our partners across the state have worked hard to ensure we have the infrastructure in place to expand vaccine administration as allocations increase,” Anderson said. “Moving forward, we hope people will not have to wait extended periods of time to receive vaccines when they are eligible.”