Washington moves closer to next phase of COVID-19 vaccine, healthcare workers weeks away from immunity

As the state ramps up its COVID-19 vaccine plan, we’re all getting closer to being eligible for the virus vaccination. In fact, you might be much closer to that day than you realize.

Friday was a big day for Harborview nurse Jessica Lowery, who manages several COVID testing sites.

"It feels good, I didn’t feel anything for the shot itself."

Cool as a cucumber, it was starting to sink in for Lowery that in 21 days she’ll have 95% immunity to the virus.

"Getting the first shot was surreal so I’ve had some time to let it sink in a little bit," she said. 

Lowery is one of the estimated half a million Washingtonians who are eligible for the vaccine right now. Any day now, we’ll move to tier B1, where anyone over 70 can get it and anyone over 50 who lives in a multigenerational household.

By February the state hopes to be vaccinating critical workers over 50, including teachers, law enforcement, and grocery store employees. By March they hope to move to anyone over 16 with multiple health conditions. By April, it’s onto high-risk critical workers who are under 50-years-old and people who work or volunteer in high-risk areas like homeless shelters or jails.

For everyone else who does not fall into any of those categories, they could be eligible any time between May or December. Lowery said she’s very conscious of all the people who cannot yet get the vaccine.

"I'm holding back a little bit and thinking about those people as well because it's not just about me getting the vaccine," she said.

Lowery said she's capping her excitement for the day when she actually gets to start vaccinating others. Her and her team at several testing sites work primarily with the homeless community in Seattle. She said many of them can’t wait.

"For them too, it’s a light at the end of the tunnel and so being able to do that for them is really cool," said Lowery.

She says questions she’s gotten are mostly "when can I get mine?!" But there are the occasional concerns about side-effects she’s happy to address.

"The first round I had an off and on headache for about a week… it really wasn't bad at all so definitely would say it’s worth it," she said.

She and her coworkers have of course heard for some the side effects can be a little more intense after the second dose, which she got today. "I don’t think it's anything I can’t handle…I’m more curious to see what it’s like more than anything."

Lowery said it’s amazing to think about being able to do her job without as much stress or fear of catching COVID. But little things like being able to go the store without thinking twice about it also sound pretty dreamy at this point.

"I'm just excited that I’m closer to immunity…it’s going to protect so many people so it’s definitely worth it," she said.

In 10 days, the state Department of Health is launching Phase Finder, an online tool where people can find out their eligibility to get vaccinated. DOH anticipates having more online information about their vaccine distribution on their website by next week.