An estimated 2 million Washington residents, including certain workers, age groups, those with health conditions or living in congregate settings, will join other groups eligible for COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday.
The change likely will boost vaccine demand but improving vaccine allocations should help providers offer more appointments, Cowlitz County health officials said.
“We remain hopeful that vaccine allocations will continue to improve across the county so providers can offer appointments to people who are eligible,” said Stefanie Donahue, county health department communications manager. “There are now several providers in the community administering vaccine to help keep up with demand.”
Those eligible starting Wednesday include anyone with two or more serious medical conditions, anyone between the ages of 60 and 64, anyone living in congregate settings — including correctional facilities, group homes for those with disabilities and homeless people — and additional workers in congregate restaurant, manufacturing and construction settings.
With the change, about 5 million Washingtonians will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, according to the state.
Washington plans to expand eligibility to everyone 16 and older by May 1, following President Joe Biden’s directive.
Last week, Dr. Steve Krager, county deputy health officer, said meeting the May 1 deadline would be great and it may be possible the state will expand eligibility to all even sooner.
“As we open up eligibility it makes it easier for providers,” he said. “It’s more efficient because they have less admin time trying to decide if someone is eligible.”
Healthcare providers, including PeaceHealth, Kaiser Permanente and Cowlitz Family Health Center are offering vaccine appointments, as well as several pharmacies in Cowlitz County. Eligible residents can find appointments at www.vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.
The COVID-19 vaccine site at the Cowlitz County Event Center will provide second doses only for the third week on Wednesday and Thursday. Donahue said it’s unknown if the site will reopen for first doses.
County providers have administered more than 45,850 doses as of Saturday, according to the state Department of Health. Nearly 24%, or 26,110, county residents had an initial vaccination. More than 12,720 were fully vaccinated, about 11.7%, as of Saturday.
In Washington, providers have given 3.24 million doses as of Saturday, with a seven-day average of nearly 53,780 doses per day. As of Saturday, 27.4% of state residents have initiated vaccination, with 16.3% fully vaccinated.
The state Department of Health announced Monday its online vaccine eligibility tool Phase Finder will no longer be required to verify eligibility starting Wednesday.
People who want a vaccine should check the state’s prioritization guidance at doh.wa.gov to see if they are eligible.
“The goal is to vaccinate as many vulnerable community members as fast as possible before opening vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 years and older in just a few weeks,” said Michele Roberts, one of the state leaders for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. “Removing Phase Finder will help speed up the process by reducing barriers for eligible individuals. We trust most people will continue to do the right thing and wait their turn to be vaccinated.”