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Vaccine dose allocations to Washington providers will increase incrementally this month

Feb. 10, 2021 Updated Wed., Feb. 10, 2021 at 10:15 p.m.

Washington state received just 46% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses distributors requested statewide this week. This should improve, albeit gradually, in the coming months, new forecasts shared with the Department of Health show.

Previously, the federal government would give the Department of Health notice of their allocation just two days before the department had to place their orders.

“It made planning incredibly hard,” Michele Roberts, assistant secretary of health, told reporters Wednesday.

Now, state health departments get a three-week view of how their dose allocations will increase.

This week, Washington providers requested more than 440,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, but the state received a little more than 200,000 doses.

Next week, the state will receive slightly more, and by the last two weeks in February, there will be shipments of more than 240,000 doses coming into the state each week. These shipments include both first and second doses, however, which inhibits how many more people can get vaccinated statewide.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses to be fully effective.

According to current estimates given to the Department of Health, there will be 365,520 first doses coming into the state over the next three weeks, starting next week.

In addition to doses shipped directly to providers, the Biden administration asked for doses to be shipped directly to pharmacies nationwide in order to speed up vaccination efforts in the country.

This week, 202 locations will receive 22,500 doses through this new federal program. Safeway, Albertsons, Costco and Health Mart pharmacies in Washington are receiving these doses, based on the state’s decision to ask the federal government to prioritize those chains.

As supplies increase, Roberts said she expects more pharmacies to receive shipments through this federal program in the future. The Department of Health had input on deciding which pharmacy chains the federal government sent doses to, but not a lot beyond that.

Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah noted that these doses are not a part of the state’s allocated doses each week.

“It’s not taking away from our vaccine doses, but at the same time it also underscores the point that we want to continue to advocate with federal partners that the states should have involvement,” Shah said. “That will help us define where those pharmacies are within the state to ensure they are equitably accessed.”

Roberts noted pharmacies statewide are doing a great job of ensuring they administer the required 95% of their doses within seven days, and she said pharmacies are an important part of the provider mix statewide.

While vaccination efforts will continue to improve statewide, COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations are on the decline both statewide and locally, after a large third wave of virus hit the state this winter.

State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said the state was continuing to come down the other side of the third wave. Case rates, hospitalizations, variant movement and vaccination efforts will all play a role in whether the state experiences a fourth wave, he said.

Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez said the county’s numbers are trending down. He said he is hoping rates have decreased enough for the East region to move to the state’s reopening Phase 2 this coming Friday, and if not, perhaps the next time around, which would be in two more weeks.

Here’s a look at local numbers

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 143 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and four additional deaths. Thus far in the pandemic, 541 Spokane County residents died due to COVID-19.

There are 54 patients with COVID-19 currently hospitalized in Spokane hospitals, the lowest total recorded in months.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 93 new cases on Wednesday.

There are 50 Panhandle residents hospitalized with COVID-19, and 38 of them are hospitalized at Kootenai Health.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories 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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