SEATTLE - Washington state is upping its COVID-19 vaccine ambitions as cases increase, worrying variants spread and vaccine demand softens in some areas, State Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah said Wednesday.
Shah told reporters that the new goal for the state is 90,000 vaccines per day if the federal government can provide it, The Seattle Times reported. Earlier this year, the goal was 45,000 shots daily.
Everyone over age 16 has been eligible for vaccination since last week and more than a third of Washington residents have received at least one dose. The state expects to receive over 377,000 doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines next week.
Shah also said state officials are aware of some concerns about the willingness of Washington residents to seek vaccines, saying he’s heard many scheduled appointments are going unfilled.
"We know vaccines are making a difference. Our data are showing that," Shah said.
Additionally, the state is still struggling with equitable vaccine administration, he said. Latinos represent about 13% of Washington’s population but have received only 8% of the vaccine doses administered.
Gender gaps are also happening nationwide and in Washington state. More than 57% of those fully vaccinated in Washington are women. Men represent just over 42%.
Shah said as the state is close to turning a corner on the pandemic, health officials are seeing the start of a fourth wave of infections.
Since early March, confirmed case counts have nearly doubled in Washington, with the rolling seven-day average of new cases approaching 1,300 daily. Hospitalizations are also increasing and the more contagious variant first detected in Britain has become the state’s dominant variant in the state.
"Our disease levels are where they were in early November," said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary for the state’s COVID-19 Response. "The good news is the slope of the increase is not as steep as it was in November."
Shah said case rates are increasing in all age groups except for people 70 and older, with the sharpest increase in people from age 10 into their teens.