Gov. Inslee warns of 4th pandemic wave as vaccine availability opens wide

Starting Thursday, more COVID-19 vaccinations are available to more people in Washington state than ever before.

Washingtonians 16 years old and older are now eligible for the vaccine. Those ready to sign-up can choose a dose and play a part in making a difference in the coronavirus pandemic.

But we are not yet home-free as Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday the threat of COVID-19 has not completely waned and warns Washingtonians could face a fourth wave of infections.

A large drive-thru vaccination center at Clover Park Technical College offered 1,500 doses for anyone over the age of 16. Families piled into cars and waited their turn, while healthcare workers cheered them on in a show of support. The Cooke families was among the throng.   

"I’m an instructor here at Clover Park and trying to open up the campus has been scary," mom Suzane says. "We’ve been doing it baby steps and I think this is a really big deal to try to restart our norm again.

Her 18-year-old son Zachary joined her and shared excitement about receiving his first dose.

"We’re trying to open it up, this is the next step," he said.

Thursday has also been a long time coming for those working on the front lines at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The weight and significance of the event felt like a milestone for some.

"Tears can be good," said Aaron Graham who works for the agency.  "I get to see people right after they get their vaccine, and they get to see their grandparents again. You can’t replace that."

But new infection rates have already pushed some counties to roll back with phased reopenings.

"There is strong evidence of a fourth wave developing," said Inslee.

The governor urged the public to continue practicing methods that limit the virus’ spread, or risk being engulfed in crisis renewed.

"We have to prevent that from taking over the state of Washington," Inslee said.  

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