OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Department of Health has announced that the next group in line to receive the coronavirus vaccine will be those who are aged 70 and older and those 50 years and older who live in multi-generational homes.
These people will be in Washington's B1 phase of vaccine distribution, which is set to begin this month. However, it should be noted that the state is not ready to move into this phase immediately.
Washington has been in phase A1 and A2 since December, when the vaccine was first distributed.
"I know that for some it feels like it’s taking a long time to get vaccines into arms. You aren’t alone in feeling this level of urgency," said Washington Secretary of Health, Dr. Umair Shah. "Public health and health care systems and really all of us throughout the country are facing the same challenges and timelines that you are."
The first in the state to get vaccinated were high-risk healthcare workers, high-risk first responders, residents in long-term care facilities and other workers at risk in healthcare settings.
"We vaccinate 50-55% of our population for flu over a 9 month period," said Michele Roberts, assistant secretary with the Divison of Prevention and Community Health. "So we’re working to do something that’s incredibly unprecedented and hard for all of us. It’s a huge launch and a huge challenge to develop the infrastructure to make sure this vaccine is available for all."
The state has tentatively announced the vaccine rollout plan for the rest of phase one.
In February, high-risk critical workers who are 50 or older who work in certain industries like food processing, grocery stores, agriculture, K-12 schools, jails, law enforcement, firefighters and those in public transit will be next in line for the vaccine.
In March, the state said it hopes to vaccinate those who are 16 years or older with two or more underlying conditions.
After that group is the high-risk critical workers under the age of 50 who congregate in certain settings, similar to the ones mentioned in the February vaccination group. Also in this group will be those who work at correctional facilities, group homes for people with disabilities and those who are experiencing homelessness who live in or access congregate settings.
The state has not finalized groups that will get vaccinated from May until the end of the year. May will start phase two of vaccinations.
More than half a million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to Washington state. About 24% of them have been administered so far, according to the DOH.
"We are continuing to look at how we can speed up the process, and we’re working with our partners in local public health and health care systems to identify solutions and improvements," said Shah.