Shoreline, WA - Preparations are currently being made throughout Washington state for the latest phase in vaccine distribution, called phase 1b. However, some front-line healthcare workers are concerned that they have no idea when they'll get the vaccine in the state's current phase, 1a.
For long-term facility employee Sharon Tapia, the only thing that's protecting her from getting coronavirus at work is her personal protective equipment (PPE).
"I spend 75% of my day working with COVID positive patients," she said.
Tapia works 40 hours a week at King County's first specialty COVID-19 long-term care facility, Richmond Beach Rehabilitation in Shoreline. She is a physical therapist assistant for the facility and says that they have yet to receive their vaccine, despite being considered in phase 1a.
"I have friends from all different facilities and they have gotten their shots or a date, and we still don't. It's really frustrating," she said.
It remains unclear where the holdup is, although it appears to be a pharmaceutical distribution concern. Many long-term care facilities are partnering with pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, who are being tasked with distributing and administering the vaccine.
According to Richmond Beach Rehabilitation's parent company, Avamere, they continue to work with pharmaceutical partners in getting the vaccine.
"Avamere leaders and employees stand ready to protect our patients and staff and to do our part in participating in the Federal Vaccine Program. We appreciate Washington State Governor Jay Inslee prioritizing long-term care staff and residents in phase 1a distribution. Avamere's Richmond Beach Rehab staff and residents and patients informed as soon as our pharmacy partner has determined the date of or first vaccine clinic this month. We anticipate notification in the days ahead," said Dr. Elizabeth Burns, Chief Medical Officer with the Avamere family of companies in an emailed statement.
Pharmaceutical companies like CVS and Walgreens say they have recently announced a plan on finishing the distribution of vaccines to long-term care facilities by Jan. 25. During a Friday afternoon press call, King County health officials recognized the challenges ahead.
"Given the large number of healthcare workers in King County, we anticipate it will take several more weeks before there will be enough vaccine supply allocated," said Patty Hayes, the director of Public Health, Seattle - King County.
There is a big concern for vaccine distribution at long-term care facilities overall. According to Friday statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, overall nationwide vaccine distribution is about 27%, with 21,419,800 total doses distributed and about 5,919,418 people who have received their first dose.
When it comes to distribution in long-term care facilities nationally, it's about at a 16% distribution, with 3,770,425 doses distributed and 603,313 people receiving their first dose.
For Tapia, the concern is that she works with both COVID positive and COVID negative patients. It's becoming riskier, she feels.
"I'm wanting the vaccine. I thought that we were one of the first sites. We are a state-recognized COVID recovery site, and we still haven't gotten it," said Tapia. "If a site like ours that has direct contact with COVID patients, if we're not getting it, who else is not getting it?"