Eligibility is expanding. But what about the vaccine supply?

The expansion of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination is great news for the school employees and childcare workers in our region who can now get the vaccine. And Governor Inslee just announced that even more people will be eligible starting March 17. However, the number of people who are or soon will be eligible will continue to outpace the availability of vaccine for some time.

Demand still exceeds supply

The current demand for vaccine in King County and across the country still significantly exceeds supply. In the coming week, we expect vaccine supplies to remain flat at about 100,000 doses, with half reserved for second doses. At the same time, there will be a huge number of people who will suddenly become eligible for vaccination in Washington state.

On March 17, eligibility will expand further to an estimated 244,000 King County residents eligible under Phase 1b2, including:

  • high-risk critical workers in congregate settings (including agriculture, food processing, grocery and food banks, corrections and courts, public transit, first responders, and early learning programs)
  • people who are pregnant, and
  • residents with a disability that puts them at higher risk from COVID-19.

This is on top of nearly 105,000 recently eligible K-12 staff and childcare workers, as well as the over 82,000 adults aged 65 and older who have not yet received a first dose.

All told, starting next week, close to 400,000 people will be eligible and we will be getting around 50,000 first doses a week. That’s roughly one first dose for every 8 eligible people.

That means that for the next few weeks, not everyone who is eligible for a vaccine will be able to find an appointment. Undoubtedly, this will be frustrating for many.

Please don’t “jump the line”

While the vaccine supply is still far lower than the demand, it is critically important that those who are NOT eligible do not attempt to make appointments and take away spots from those who are eligible now. Critical workers who have been on the frontlines providing essential services during the pandemic deserve their turn. Getting school and childcare staff vaccinated will help get kids in school and keep parents working. Other eligible people are at higher risk of hospitalization and death, including the older adults and their caregivers who have not yet been vaccinated. Please wait until it’s your turn, and thank you for your patience.

What we’re doing to meet the need

We’re making the best use of vaccine we have received by reaching as many people as possible who are 65 years or older or otherwise eligible, starting with those who are at highest risk for COVID-19 but have low rates of vaccination, such as Black and Latinx community members.

It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach, with health care providers, community health clinics, pharmacies, several high-volume vaccine locations, special events and clinics and mobile vaccination teams all serving the community.

And we’re making progress:

  • As of March 11, more than 688,000 doses have been administered across King County.
  • Nearly 70% of all people age 65+ have received a first dose.
  • Our current rate of vaccinations is about 100,000 doses per week, which has risen gradually in pace with supplies coming to the county.

When supply grows, we are ready

Right now, we have much more capacity to vaccinate King County residents than vaccine to do it. However, over the next couple months, delivery of vaccine to King County will increase significantly.

The Biden administration has announced plans to distribute enough vaccine for every adult by the end of May, and recently purchased 100 million doses of J&J vaccine. It will become much easier to schedule appointments and access vaccine as we get more supply across the country, state, and here in King County.

King County and our partners are ready. We have a plan and the capacity to use this vaccine as soon as it gets to us. At peak capacity, we will be able to deliver over 300,000 doses per week into arms.

Every community in King County will see substantial increases in vaccine availability, including through multiple pharmacy chains, hundreds of enrolled health care providers, increased mobile vaccination outreach, employer-based clinics, and increased community vaccination events.

We will have a total of eight high-volume vaccination sites, positioned geographically across the county, and on major transit lines, to provide another accessible choice for people to get vaccinated.

And we couldn’t do this alone. We’re grateful to partners throughout King County who are stepping to up offer their support. As vaccine increases, there will be new opportunities for communities to support vaccination efforts.

For more detail about who is eligible, see the guidance from WA State Department of Health. For more information about COVID-19 vaccine, see our vaccine website.

Originally posted March 12, 2021.