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Spokane Arena vaccination site is set to open Wednesday. What you need to know

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 26, 2021

By Arielle Dreher and Laurel Demkovich The Spokesman-Review

The rush continues Wednesday as the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena begins vaccinating eligible people who register for one of the 3,000 vaccine shots.

CHAS Health will open its online scheduling tool for health care workers, first responders and residents 65 and older at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The shots are also available for people who are 50 and older who live in multigenerational households, such as grandparents living in the same home as grandchildren.

Residents are asked to take the state’s Phase Finder assessment and bring proof of their eligibility and identification once they are scheduled for an appointment. Masks are required inside the Arena, and while there are places to change, it is advised that residents wear T-shirts or clothing that make it easier for health care workers to give the shots.

Only people with appointments will be given vaccinations at the Arena. There are no walk-up options.

For those unable to schedule a vaccination appointment online, CHAS encourages people to call (509) 444-8200 for assistance . The appointments are expected to fill up by noon Wednesday.

CHAS will spread those 3,000 appointments through next Tuesday as it plans to vaccinate about 500 people per day.

Eventually, those wanting to schedule an appointment will also be able to call one of the Department of Health’s COVID-19 hotlines. The Department of Health is hiring and training additional staff to answer phones and help people sign up for appointments at mass vaccination sites statewide. Right now, the hotline is not able to help with appointments at the Arena, but the Department of Health hopes to be able to assist soon, according to spokesperson Franji Mayes.

CHAS is using a different server to host the appointment scheduling website, with the hope that it can handle the massive demand on Wednesday morning. Additional appointments will open up online once CHAS knows how many doses they are scheduled to receive next week. For those who get appointments at the mass vaccination site, they will need to schedule their second dose appointments through the same online portal.

The Arena will have only one entry point – at Boone Avenue – for those seeking COVID-19 tests or those with vaccination appointments. There will be volunteers directing traffic and verifying residents’ eligibility and appointment times before they are allowed to enter. The entire process from registration to finishing the 15-minute observation period is expected to take about 25 to 30 minutes.

Residents who have received any other vaccination in the last two weeks should schedule a COVID-19 vaccine beyond that two-week period, according to CHAS health officials.

Kelley Charvet, chief administrative officer for CHAS Health, estimates the Arena site could eventually vaccinate up to 5,000 people a day once the supply is there. For now, however, vaccinating 500 people a day is the goal.

If people were too late, were put on hold or repeatedly got a busy tone trying to book an appointment, they were not alone. Local health care leaders asked residents to be patient as they are working as quickly as they can with a limited supply of doses.

“We are dependent on the state’s supply,” Charvet told reporters Tuesday, noting that they are asking the state for more doses. “We’re asking for patience.”

Michele Roberts, assistant secretary at the Department of Health, said health officials are working with senior centers, providers and pharmacies to get information to as many seniors as possible, especially those who may not be comfortable using the internet. It’s a multifaceted approach to make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated, she said.

As with any emergency, Gov. Jay Inslee said a significant part of the solution is helping other people. He encouraged everyone to help those in their community who may struggle with the internet and finding an appointment.

“This is the moment in time where all of us can step up and help people,” Inslee said.

The demand for vaccines statewide has stretched from urban centers to rural communities .

Rosalinda Kibby, administrator at Columbia Basin Hospital in Ephrata, said that since the governor changed the eligibility, people had been showing up at the hospital looking for the vaccine and as well as calling.

“The onslaught of phone calls was amazing, and the response in our area of people wanting the vaccine is tremendous,” Kibby said. “And it did overwhelm our systems, and we have people coming to the facilities saying, ‘I want my vaccine.’ ”

There is a waitlist of 1,000 people at Columbia Basin who want a vaccine, in a system that typically sees about 70 patients a day in clinics. Kibby said the hospital is only receiving 100 doses of vaccine a week, however, and like everyone else statewide would like to get more doses .

The limited number of doses available means a lot of providers are pressing “pause” on vaccination clinics this week, including MultiCare and Providence in Spokane, which have no first-dose appointments available. Second dose appointments are still being scheduled, however.

Other vaccine sites in Spokane County, like grocery stores or community clinics, also have run out of doses.

Not all vaccine distributors are open to the public, and those who have opened up their vaccine appointments to anyone in Spokane County are all booked.

Locally, MultiCare and Providence are asking that patients not call their providers or doctor’s offices, but instead use their electronic health records to sign up to be notified for a vaccine appointment when they open up again.

Some sites, such as Prevention Northwest and Mt. Spokane Pediatrics, are asking those interested in being vaccinated to send emails to essentially get “in line.” Mt. Spokane Pediatrics is at capacity and awaiting additional doses, while Prevention Northwest is about three weeks out from scheduling new appointments.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced it would increase the doses sent to states next week. How many of those will come to the Spokane Arena or other Spokane providers is still unknown.

Washington is set to receive 16% more doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the next three weeks, Inslee told reporters Tuesday.

In a call with the Biden administration’s vaccine team, Inslee said governors were told the national supply would increase over the next few weeks and states will have a set delivery schedule for the next three weeks.

A set delivery schedule is good news, as the federal allotments have been uncertain, Inslee said.

Federal officials also told governors each vial would come with a special syringe that could be used to extract an additional dose out of every Pfizer vial. Inslee said the increased number of doses means the state will have an additional 20% of the Pfizer product to use.

The rolling seven-day average for the number of doses administered in a 24-hour period was 39,063 doses as of Tuesday. That’s up from 16,146 doses a week ago.

Inslee’s goal is to give 45,000 doses a day.

Here’s a look at today’s numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 235 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county total over 33,000 cases. Health officials confirmed four more deaths, for a total of 482 deaths from COVID-19 during the pandemic in Spokane County.

There are 109 patients with the virus being treated in Spokane hospitals.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 70 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, the lowest daily case count reported there in at least a week .

Hospitalizations continue to decline in the Idaho Panhandle. There are 49 residents from the five-county region hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher and 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.

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