Washington state hospitals expect more first dose vaccine appointments by next week

The Washington State Hospitals Association expects more first-dose COVID vaccination appointments to return by next week.

The state has been focusing on administering second vaccine doses and because of that, appointments to get a first dose this week were extremely limited, Washington state health officials said.

Providers requested about 170,000 second doses for this week, an amount significantly higher than the state’s allocation of 92,325 second doses, the Department of Health said in a news release. The difference is likely because some providers in Washington used doses of vaccine intended to complete the two-dose vaccine series as the initial dose in January.

Unfortunately, officials said, that meant a large portion of this week's available first doses needed to be used to fully vaccinate these people.

During a news conference on Feb. 17, the Washington State Hospitals Association said they expected more first dose appointments to return by the following week.

"We believe that the second dose backfilling will be largely complete this week and the good news about the first dose/second dose confusion is there’s a whole lot more people who will be fully vaccinated faster," said Cassie Sauer, President and CEO of WSHA. "This week, we’ll be ahead, I think, of other states in full vaccinations. I think there was confusion, but I think it’s going to be resolved and I think moving forward there will be a lot more first dose appointments next week."

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In the meantime, the Department of Health said it planned to prioritize long-term care facilities, adult family homes, mass vaccination sites in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties and other sites that address equity.

"We are monitoring the distribution of doses closely and making adjustments as needed," Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health said in the statement. "While the limited availability of first doses will be challenging this coming week, focusing on second doses will help pave the way for an improved and more sustainable allocation of vaccines in future weeks."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also delayed vaccine delivery until Tuesday because of weather concerns across the country, officials said. Together, this means people trying make an appointment for a first dose likely will not be able to do so next week, and some who have appointments for a first dose may be asked to reschedule, health officials said.

State health officials also said Friday that more than 1 million doses of the vaccine had been administered in Washington since distribution started in mid-December.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.