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Spokane Arena will become mass COVID-19 vaccination site as Washington expands eligibility to everyone 65 and older

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters about COVID-19 restrictions at the Capitol in Olympia.  (Ted S. Warren)

OLYMPIA – The Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena will become a mass COVID-19 vaccination site next week as Washington moves into the next phase of distribution, with all residents 65 years and older now eligible for the shots.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday a plan to accelerate vaccination throughout Washington. That plan includes opening large vaccination sites statewide, run by the Washington National Guard, partnering with private companies like Starbucks and Microsoft, providing more flexibility in the state’s tiered distribution approach and launching a phase finder tool that allows residents to find when they are eligible and where they can get a vaccine.

“There are simply too many people who need access to COVID vaccines for this process to lag any further,” he said.

The plan will help the state reach its new goal of administering 45,000 COVID vaccinations every day, Inslee said. That number is higher than the state’s current federal allocation, but striving for that goal will help the state prepare its infrastructure as doses increase. As of last week, the state was vaccinating 14,000 people a day.

With the new tier, 1.5 million people are eligible for the vaccine, but the state only receives about 100,000 first doses each week.

“There is going to be inevitable frustration as we find out a way to deliver these vaccines as fast as humanly possible,” Inslee said. Inslee, who is 69, said he and his wife Trudi will likely be receiving the vaccine sometime in the next few days.

The Washington National Guard will help set up vaccination sites across the state. The Spokane Arena is one of four sites set to open next week. Next week’s allocation will be divided between these sites, pharmacies and local clinics to begin the next phase of vaccinations.

Everyone who is eligible to receive a vaccine may go to one of the large vaccination sites, Inslee said. Some may be appointment only while others may be first come, first served. Those details are currently being worked out, he said.

The state will move into Phase 1B of distribution this week with some updates. The first tier of this phase now includes all individuals 65 years and older, effective immediately. It also includes those 50 years and older in multigenerational households.

“Our vaccine prioritization reflects the need to protect these most vulnerable Washingtonians,” Inslee said.

Those in Tiers2, 3 and 4 in this phase will remain the same, but vaccinations for these groups may begin as soon as at least half of the eligible first-tier patients are vaccinated. As the state continues to work through those in 1A as well as those newly eligible in 1B, it will still be a while before the state will move forward.

Those who are currently eligible should be hearing from their health care providers soon about making an appointment. If they do not, they can use the Department of Health’s Phase Finder tool to find out if they are eligible and where they can go to get an appointment.

For everyone else, Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah encourages them to continue to be patient.

“This is going to take time and we want to make sure there’s patience as well,” Shah said.

The state is partnering with numerous organizations and businesses that will be involved in the distribution process:

  • Kaiser Permanente will work on planning and delivery of mass vaccinations.

• Starbucks will work on customer logistics and communications.

  • Microsoft will provide technology expertise and support.
  • Costco will work on vaccine delivery to pharmacies.
  • SEIU 1199NW, a health care union, will coordinate volunteers to give the vaccinations.
  • UFCW 21, a private-sector labor union, will coordinate staffing and training.
  • Washington State Nurses Association will provide safety and health consultation.

“We have confidence we can bring vaccines to everyone faster because of this initiative,” Microsoft CEO Brad Smith said.

Shah said vaccination distribution will require everyone working together to allow the state to expand administrations beyond the health care sector.

“We want to get shots in arms, and we want to do this quickly,” he said.

In new guidance, providers who are administering the vaccine must use 95% of future allocations within the first week of receiving them. Beginning Tuesday, providers will be expected to provide daily information on the number of vaccines administered and their plans for using the remaining doses to the Department of Health.

Every dose allocated before this week must be used by Sunday, Inslee said.

As of Jan. 16, almost 295,000 vaccines have been given out, Shah said; 42% of vaccines that the state has received have been given out.

There have been very minimal waste of dosages, said Michele Roberts, with the Department of Health. The biggest problem has been matching who is eligible with who actually receives the vaccine, but Inslee said everything that needs to be done to fix these issues is being done.

Laurel Demkovich can be reached at (509) 416-6260 or

Laurel Demkovich'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.