Major health care providers in Spokane County, which stand ready and able to distribute vaccine doses, got no new first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week.
The Spokane Arena mass vaccination site and a handful of pharmacies are the only local distributors that received more first vaccine doses this week, slowing down the rollout of vaccinations in the Inland Northwest.
Providence, MultiCare and CHAS Health locations in Spokane County received no first doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine this week. The Spokane Regional Health District did not receive new first doses either.
According to the Department of Health, this holdup is due to the high demand statewide. More than 600 facilities requested more than 358,000 first doses of vaccine for this week. The state only received 107,000 new first doses, however, and the department prioritized other vaccine locations.
The department decides where it sends doses based on various factors, including populations eligible for the vaccine, data from providers, current inventory and throughput, equity and access to different types of sites.
The unpredictability of dose allocations is making it difficult to plan more community-based vaccination efforts, Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez told reporters on Wednesday.
“I think the biggest issue we have … is the unpredictability of the vaccine distribution,” he said.
The Spokane Regional Health District used some of its doses from last week to help supply the mass vaccination site at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena as well as continue to vaccinate first responders and long-term care facility residents and workers, who are not enrolled in the federal pharmacy vaccination program. The process of getting vaccines to those facilities will continue as long as the health district has doses to offer.
Velázquez said there is capacity in the county to vaccinate many more residents than providers currently are.
“Do we have the infrastructure and the ability to scale up if we were to get a lot more vaccine? The answer is yes and yes and yes,” he said. “We do have the ability to scale up and skill set to scale up, I think we demonstrated that with the Arena, but we can’t keep adding unless there is more vaccine distribution because then we’re diluting the vaccination effort and it makes it less efficient.”
Thus far, 46,409 Spokane County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Department of Health data.
In its first week of operation, the Spokane Arena site vaccinated 4,969 people. CHAS officials say they plan to vaccinate about 600 people per day from Thursday to Sunday this coming week for those who got appointments.
More appointments will open up on Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. on CHAS’ website, or people can call (509) 444-8200 to make an appointment at that time.
Locally, COVID-19 activity is trending in the “right direction,” Velázquez said, but he said the county still has work to do.
While no new variants of the virus have been confirmed in Spokane County, Velázquez encouraged residents to make sure they have a thick enough mask that fits properly. He said facial coverings that are two- or three-ply are recommended, and he noted that they should fit snugly around a person’s nose and chin to ensure particles cannot escape.
On Wednesday, the district confirmed 147 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths from the virus.
Since the pandemic began, 515 have died from the virus locally. There are currently 98 people being treated in Spokane County hospitals for the virus.
Across the state line, the Panhandle Health District confirmed 69 new cases of the virus on Wednesday and two additional deaths.
There are 49 Panhandle residents hospitalized with COVID-19.
S-R Reporter Laurel Demkovich contributed to this story.
Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.
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