King County launches push to deliver equity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

At the ShoWare Center in Kent, hundreds of people lined up in the drenching rain for Monday's big event and a shot at immunity.

The arena, home to the Seattle Thunderbirds now houses a vaccine site six days a week. The goal: to get the shot to minority communities and underserved populations. 

That includes Christina Chavez. 

"That’s the only thing we can do to be safe and make sure we’re not getting other people sick," Chavez said. 

The 51-year-old has diabetes, pancreatitis and other health issues making her high risk. It's the reason she rarely leaves home. She’s lost a relative to COVID-19 and hasn’t seen her three grandchildren in person for what seems like an eternity. 

She’s also part of a targeted program to get minorities at risk vaccinated. She and others here received a call often from community groups or other outreach. 

"I’m one of the lucky ones I can say, because I got called in," Chavez said. 

COVID-19 vaccine info: Where to get vaccinated in Washington state

Several studies show, across the county, whites have been twice as likely to get the vaccine as Black or Latino Americans. 

It's part of the reason King County is spending $7 million dollars for the walk-up site in Kent and a drive-up location in Auburn, both home to more diverse populations. 500 doses a day, six days a week will be given at each site.

"To level the playing field," said King County Executive Dow Constantine, who toured the site with other elected and public health officials. "To make sure that people who live in low-income neighborhoods, people who live in highly-diverse neighborhoods have the same access to the vaccine they deserve as people who are more privileged." 

The vaccination sites are by appointment only. No walk ups. 

If you want to get in line, go to the website or call the number: 1-800-525-0127.

In addition to the two big vaccination sites in Kent and Auburn, five mobile strike teams are visiting long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, senior centers, and other spots, taking the vaccine directly to vulnerable populations. 

The program is focused on vaccinating people not connected to the health care system, those who work multiple jobs, or face other barriers to get vaccinated.

"Yeah, I did it," Chavez celebrated, walking out of the arena after receiving her first dose. "It’s kind of sore, but hey, no pain no gain. I’m glad!" 

Now on her way to hugging her grandchildren once again.