The Washington State Department of Health announced that people who meet the criteria for Phase 1B Tier 1 are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, but demand far surpasses supply, and officials urge patience.
Phase 1B Tier 1 includes:
- All people 65 years or older.
- All people 50 years or older in multigenerational households. A multigenerational household is defined as any home where individuals from 2 or more generations reside, such as an elder and a grandchild.
Whatcom County is continuing to prioritize Phase 1A eligible people for vaccination because vaccine demand continues to exceed supply.
As of last week, only 9,000 vaccine doses have been distributed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to vaccine providers in Whatcom County, which is only enough to provide a first dose to about 50-60% of the first tier in Phase 1A. Everyone in Phase 1A, both Tier 1 and Tier 2, are currently eligible for and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have the will, the fire, and the ability to get everyone in Whatcom vaccinated, but we don’t have the vaccines,” said Cindy Hollinsworth, Communicable Disease Manager for the Whatcom County Health Department.
Shipments of doses to Whatcom County have varied from as little as 300 in a week to as much as 5,000, and that unpredictability has complicated planning efforts. Additionally, due to failures of the federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care (LTC) Program, some of Whatcom County’s most vulnerable community members working and living in long-term care facilities have instead had to be vaccinated by local providers. This population, along with the rest of Phase 1A, will continue to need prioritization by local vaccine providers.
Patience will still be required once Whatcom County providers begin vaccinating people in Phase 1B Tier 1. Washington state currently has enough doses to vaccinate 100,000 people a week, but there are more than 1 million Washingtonians in the 1B Tier 1 group. In Whatcom County alone, there are just under 42,000 people aged 65 and older.
Health care providers in Whatcom County and WCHD are handling an increasingly demanding volume of calls with questions about vaccines. People in Phase 1B Tier 1 are asked to check their provider’s website for updates instead of calling, and to expect information from their provider about when and how they can get vaccinated. Those in Phase 1A who haven’t yet been vaccinated should contact their employers to arrange vaccination as soon as possible.
Whatcom County residents are encouraged to keep wearing masks, washing hands often, staying six feet apart from non-household members and limiting gatherings with non-household members as much as possible, especially indoors. These steps are proven to reduce the spread while so many people in the community don’t yet have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“What’s needed most right now from the community is patience,” Hollinsworth said. “Everyone will have the chance to get vaccinated. We know vaccination needs to move faster in our country, our state and our county. We’re doing what we can to speed this along. Please be flexible and adaptive for a little while longer.”
The Whatcom County Health Department will provide updates on vaccine availability as information becomes available at www.whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine. COVID-19 vaccine-related data from the Washington State Department of Health will be available at www.whatcomcounty.us/coviddata within the next seven days. The vaccine data will be integrated with WCHD’s current data dashboard and will include numbers of vaccines received, delivered and administered in Whatcom County. A thorough breakdown of Washington’s vaccination phases and proposed vaccination timeline is available at www.CovidVaccineWA.org.
Media Contact: Melissa Morin, Public Information Officer
Phone: (360) 594-2504
E-mail address: WUC_JIC@co.whatcom.wa.us