Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now

COVID-19

News

With teachers now in the queue, thousands of Spokane County residents will be searching for vaccine doses

UPDATED: Wed., March 3, 2021

With K-12 teachers and child care workers now eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, the list of Spokane County residents in line for doses grew significantly overnight.

So far in local vaccination efforts, 79,716 Spokane County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or about 15.47% of the county’s population, as of March 1.

These numbers mark considerable progress in the effort to vaccinate all health care and frontline workers, as well as residents 65 and older or 50 and older in multigenerational households.

It’s unclear exactly how many more people need to get access to the vaccine in the current phase, however, prompting local health officials to work with state health officials to work on getting those estimates.

“It will be important for us to get that assessment,” Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez said.

Little direction has been given from state agencies or the governor’s office about how teachers and childcare workers should be accessing the vaccine after the governor’s announcement that they were eligible late on Tuesday. Velázquez did not have additional details for reporters on Wednesday morning, beyond that the Federal Pharmacy Program, which is shipping doses directly to certain pharmacies, will likely be involved in the efforts.

And while teachers are now eligible, half of the state’s population of residents over the age of 65, more than 600,000 residents, have yet to have access to a shot, according to state data. As of March 1, 49.9% of the state’s residents over the age of 65 have gotten one dose of a vaccine.

In Spokane County, there are more than 121,675 residents eligible to be vaccinated who are frontline, health care workers or residents 65 and older, according to 2019 Census data compiled by Spokane Trends. This figure does not include county residents over the age of 50 who live in multigenerational households.

The county already had tens of thousands of residents who need access to a vaccine in the current phase, using the Spokane Trends population estimates, even before teachers became eligible.

The Department of Health has not released specific plans to vaccinate teachers, and on Tuesday, the department was seeking clarity that President Joe Biden’s announcement to vaccinate childcare workers and K-12 teachers with at least one dose this month would also come with additional vaccine supplies to meet those demands.

The Western States Workgroup, with experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, approved the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for use in their respective states on Wednesday, meaning Washington could get doses of the new vaccine very soon. Previous estimates from the Department of Health were that the state would receive 60,900 doses.

The Department did not return requests for comment about the proposed use for the third authorized vaccine.

Meanwhile, competition for appointments still exists.

There are still some open first-dose appointments in Spokane County this week at pharmacies and clinics.

Providence Medical Group announced 1,000 more appointments at the Spokane Teaching Health Center at two clinics, one on March 5 and one on March 8. These appointments are open to anyone currently eligible for the vaccine and can be reserved online.

The mass vaccination site at the Spokane Arena is not offering first-dose appointments this week or in the near future, however.

The site continues to receive about 4,000 doses per week, and right now those doses are being used as second doses for patients who received their first dose at the Arena last month. Vaccine allocations to the Spokane Arena site have not increased to open up more first-dose appointments.

So far, 17,652 doses have been administered at the mass vaccination site at the Spokane Arena.

Idaho advances

While teachers are just now eligible for vaccines in Washington, teachers in Idaho have had vaccine access for several weeks. Idaho moved into its next phase of vaccine access on Wednesday.

Now, food and agriculture workers, grocery store workers, manufacturing, public transit and postal service workers can get vaccinated in Idaho. Currently, Idaho residents over the age of 65 are eligible as well, but according to the Panhandle Health District, demand has slowed.

There are about 51,000 individuals in the Panhandle Health District who are 65 and older, and only about 47% of that group have received their first dose of the vaccine.

“We and other enrolled providers have seen a considerable slowdown of appointments being scheduled by the currently eligible groups,” Don Duffy, PHD clinical services administrator, said in a news release. “This indicates to us that we need to move forward to the next phase of eligible groups. We want to ensure to the best of our abilities we have offered the vaccine to as many eligible individuals as possible, so we are encouraging those 65 and older to schedule their vaccine with an enrolled provider.”

Here’s a look at local numbersOn Wednesday, the Spokane Regional Health District confirmed just 24 new cases of COVID-19.

Death data could not be updated due to data errors, but as of Tuesday, 585 deaths had been confirmed in Spokane County residents due to COVID-19. On Wednesday, Washington passed a grim milestone, confirming more than 5,000 COVID-19 deaths in state residents.

There are currently 47 patients with COVID-19 hospitalized in Spokane hospitals.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 54 new cases on Wednesday and no additional deathsThere are 25 Panhandle residents hospitalized with COVID-19.


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.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.