OLYMPIA — Washington state is opening up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all residents age 16 and older starting on April 15, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday.
The federal government had directed states to make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccination by May 1, but most states had earlier plans, with more than a dozen opening eligibility to all adults this week.
Also Wednesday, New Mexico announced it would open vaccine eligibility next week to everyone 16 and older, and Pennsylvania said every adult there will qualify starting April 19.
Inslee had previously resisted expanding eligibility too quickly, saying he wanted to ensure those most at risk were vaccinated first and noting eligibility didn’t guarantee vaccination right away and would depend on supply.
But he said Wednesday the federal government’s assurances of increased allocations, plus concerns about rising cases in many parts of the state, led to the decision to expand eligibility sooner.
“We still don’t have the supply to make this available to everyone today, so many of us are going to have to have continued patience,” Inslee said. “But I’m so happy about the rate of the vaccination we now are obtaining in the state of Washington.”
Inslee’s announcement came the same day 2 million more people, including restaurant workers and those 16 and older with two or more underlying health conditions, became eligible for vaccination in the state. The latest tier builds upon previous tiers that started with vaccinating health care workers, first responders and those in nursing homes in December, and later included the elderly, teachers and those who work in grocery stores.
As of Wednesday, about 5 million of the state’s more than 7.6 million residents are eligible for vaccination. An additional 1.2 million people who are 16 and older will be added to those eligible in just two weeks.
More than 3.3 million doses of vaccine have been administered to date, and nearly 17% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated, including those vaccinated by the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 27% have received at least one dose of the vaccines that require two shots, by Pfizer and Moderna.
Inslee and Department of Health Secretary Umair Shah both stressed that they want to see more seniors vaccinated. As of Wednesday, 73% of those over age 65 have received at least one dose of vaccine and more than 55% have been fully vaccinated.
Inslee expressed concern about the 27% of the over 65 population that has not yet received one dose, saying it was “a dangerous situation.”
Inslee and Shah encouraged people to reach out to elders they know and urge them to get vaccinated.
“We want to make sure we do everything we can to get seniors get vaccinated,” Shah said.
The U.S. has recorded more than 30.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 551,000 deaths. There have been more than 341,000 cases in Washington state, and 5,247 deaths.
For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.