County COVID-19 briefing: Vaccine supply, website glitch means a wait for shots

If we had more vaccine, we could vaccinate many more people in Snohomish County. That’s the big takeaway from the county’s weekly COVID update Tuesday. The three drive-through locations (Monroe, Everett, Edmonds College) have the capacity to give shots to 30,000 people a week, according to County Executive Dave Somers.

Somers said the county is running “far below capacity” and he is frustrated that officials cannot get the supply. He said he knows that the state is not getting vaccine supplies either and he does not know when more is coming. Somers told reporters that the county could easily ramp up to 50,000 doses or more a week if more vaccine arrives.  He added that 65% of the initial vaccine allotment of 35,000 doses has already been used.

Dr. Chris Spitters, Snohomish Health District

“This was,” said County Health Officer Chris Spitters, “the year that turned everybody’s lives upside down.” Jan. 19 marks a tragic anniversary here. Exactly, one year ago, a man from Everett went to a walk-in clinic just days after he returned from Wuhan, China.  Doctors had heard of the coronavirus and took blood samples. Within 24 hours, the federal Centers for Disease Control alerted them that their patient was the first documented COVID-19 case in the nation

Spitters called what has been accomplished in the last year a miracle. Now, the key is to get the vaccine “to as many as quickly possible,” said Somers. Not enough vaccine is the big glitch that the county is working through, coordinating with the state.

Another glitch was the website for the Seattle Visiting Nurses Association: www.seattlevna.com, which administers shots at two of the county’s drive-through sites. Monday, the state opened vaccine appointments to those 65 and older, but the website wouldn’t accept reservations. The software has been updated. But their injection sites are fully booked for the rest of this week.

The county thinks there are about 120,000 resident 65 and older who are now eligible for their shots. Another 20,000-40,000 also eligible are those who are over 50 and live in “multi-generational” homes.

One way to find out when you can get the shot is the state’s website —https://form.findyourphasewa.org.

Once you register online, the site should notify you when you are eligible and provide vaccine sites.

Snohomish County is setting up a phone line for those without internet access. As soon as the county call center is running, the health district will provide the number. In the meantime, you can call the state COVID line: 1-800-525-0127, then press #. Interpreter services are available.

Health care services and some pharmacies may also provide the vaccine. Currently, 54 providers are  approved to give COVID shots; another 46 are pending state approval. But the county says private providers are limited by the space they have, and that mass vaccine centers may still be your best bet.

The state originally said that all vaccine should be administered by next Sunday. Some providers had been keeping some of their supply so that patients could get a second shot. The county is trying to confirm if the state will allow that, or if all available shots will be given this week.

Spitters told reporters that updated numbers should be released later on Tuesday on the rolling average of new cases over a two-week period.  He thinks “we’re looking at level case numbers at best.”

He added that hospitalizations are holding steady at about 110-120. Of those, 90 are confirmed COVID cases; 30 are suspected.

As frustrating as the wait is, both officials said we’ve got to be patient.

— By Bob Throndsen

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