By Everett Herald staff
The state is ready for Phase 1b of the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan, making more than a million Washingtonians eligible for potentially life-saving shots, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday.
In the newly revised Phase 1b, all residents 65 and older, and those 50 and older who live in multigenerational households, can now get their first shot of the vaccine.
“This is taking place immediately,” Inslee said during a Monday news conference. “The only way to beat this pandemic is to get vaccinated.”
The governor also announced mass vaccination sites in four parts of the state as early as next week, larger dose allotments to Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, and new rules for providers that require them to use what they receive each week, rather than hold onto them.
The moves are part of an ambitious ramp-up to vaccinate 45,000 people a day — roughly quadrupling the current pace — if and when the supply of medication is available.
To get there, Inslee is enlisting the expertise of industry giants Microsoft, Costco, Starbucks and Kaiser Permanente to assist in administering the statewide program.
“This is a massive effort, unlike any we have undertaken in modern history,” Inslee said. “There are simply too many people who need access to COVID vaccines for this process to lag any further.”
Under Phase 1b, about 1.5 million Washingtonians are now eligible for the vaccine.
With a limited supply of vaccine doses, it may take weeks for people to schedule their shot, however.
“Patience is going to be one of the most important assets for us in the upcoming weeks and months,” Inslee said.
Legislative leaders in both parties have expressed concern about the state’s sluggish rate of vaccination. Monday’s announcement is viewed as an important step toward picking up the pace.
“Our real goal is to do everything we can to get vaccines in arms as soon as it gets here in Washington state,” House Speaker Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said Monday.
Per the state Department of Health, a multigenerational home is any residence in which people of two or more generations live.
“We know communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 often live in multigenerational households,” state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said during Monday’s news conference.
If you qualify under Phase 1b, public health officials recommend first reaching out to your primary care doctor and asking if they’re providing shots.
The governor’s new rules crack down on how quickly vaccine providers administer shots, and how they report that information to the state.
Hospitals, clinics and pharmacies must now dole out 95% of their shots within a week of receiving them and send the Department of Health daily updates. Providers which fail to meet the 95% target could have their unused allotments redistributed by the state to other providers.
Additionally, every vaccine provider has until Sunday to administer any doses they currently possess.
“We need them to hustle up here,” Inslee said. “This will now be a legal requirement.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Health plans to send additional people who can administer vaccines to hospitals, clinics and pharmacies that have struggled to quickly get shots into arms.
The state is also launching mass vaccination clinics in Spokane, Chelan, Benton and Clark counties.
As of Jan. 15, Washington had received 696,175 doses of vaccine and 242,606 had been administered, according to data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you want to know what phase you’re in, find your spot in line with Phase Finder through the state Department of Health. Here’s how it works:
• Go to FindYourPhaseWA.org and fill out the questionnaire.
• If you’re eligible, you will get a confirmation.
• Phase Finder will show you locations where you can get the vaccine.
• Call and schedule your appointment.
• Take your Eligibility Confirmation (printed or a screenshot) with you.
• If you aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet, you’ll be able to sign up to get an email or text alert when you are.