OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday touted big improvements in distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, but he also urged residents to remain vigilant as new, more contagious variants of the disease spread in the state.
Inslee said more than 36,000 doses were administered in Washington on Sunday and 39,000 on Monday — a big jump from about 16,000 a week earlier, and on the way toward the state’s goal of 45,000 per day.
The number of vaccines actually administered could be even higher, given lags in reporting, but as of Monday, more than 500,000 doses had been administered statewide, with four mass vaccination sites due to open this week.
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the federal government is boosting vaccine supplies to the states by 16% over the next three weeks, giving states more certainty about upcoming deliveries than the one-week notice the Trump administration had been providing. The shipments will also contain specially designed syringes that allow health-care providers to squeeze an additional dose out of vials of Pfizer vaccines.
Still, problems persist, including that due to shortages many of the people now eligible for the vaccine, including everyone over 65, have had trouble finding appointments to get the shots.
At one of the newly opened mass vaccination sites, at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, local officials expressed frustration that the state Health Department on Monday night required people to make appointments after they were already giving out the shots first-come, first served. Some people were turned away after showing up before dawn Tuesday because they didn’t have appointments, the Tri-City Herald reported.
Inslee sounded weary when asked about that during a press briefing Tuesday, noting that 500 people had been inoculated at the site Monday and 700 more were expected to Tuesday.
"I certainly understand people’s frustration that everything hasn’t been perfect in this life-saving mission," Inslee said. "We would like to be able to save 1,200 lives over two days and have zero inconvenience for people. That would be wonderful. We weren’t able to accomplish that."
"It’s not going to be a seamless system," he added, "but we are moving the needle bigtime."
Inslee urged people not to ease up on COVID-19 precautions, noting that the first Washington cases of a more contagious variant of the disease, B.1.1.7, first identified in the U.K., were confirmed over the weekend.
"We’ve got to be more rigorous now because we’ve got a greater threat now," Inslee said.