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Cowlitz County can't meet Inslee's new mandate, focuses on phase 1a vaccinations
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Cowlitz County can't meet Inslee's new mandate, focuses on phase 1a vaccinations

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Preparing vaccine

PeaceHealth St. John pharmacist Liz Verbrugge prepares a syringe for injection of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during the first day of administration in Cowlitz County at the hospital in Longview on Dec. 17.

Cowlitz County health officials are working with local clinics and pharmacies to increase the number of locations that can give the COVID-19 vaccine before moving forward in the state’s vaccine plan, according to the health department.

In an effort to speed vaccinations efforts, Gov. Jay Inslee Monday announced several updates to the state’s vaccine distribution plan, including moving the state into the first tier of phase 1b, which includes everyone 65 and older and those 50 and older in multigenerational households.

The Cowlitz County health department announced Monday it would continue prioritizing phase 1a, which includes healthcare workers and long-term care staff and residents, at least until later this week.

The county said it is focusing on phase 1a because vaccine supplies are limited and health care providers aren’t ready to meet the governor’s new mandates, said spokesperson Stefanie Donahue.

As of last week, the county confirmed that PeaceHealth, Kaiser Permanente and a local pharmacy were administering the coronavirus vaccine, Donahue said.

On Friday, Dr. Steve Krager, county deputy health officer, said a delay in the state approval of healthcare providers that had applied to give the vaccine was holding up local vaccination efforts.

According to the state’s new vaccine dashboard, Cowlitz County facilities had administered 1,788 doses as of Saturday. The count includes doses given to individuals that reside outside the county and state. The dashboard doesn’t include how many doses providers in the county have received.

The state has administered about 294,390 doses, or 42% of the 607,350 doses delivered to the state as of Saturday, according to the dashboard. Officials said Monday this is likely an undercount as reports from providers are delayed.

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More than 2,535 Cowlitz County residents received a first dose of vaccine as of Saturday, according to the Department of Health dashboard. Of those, 608 had received both doses.

It’s unclear how many people in Cowlitz County are eligible for vaccination under phase 1a, but moving to the next phase would add about 21,000 people 65 and older, according to Census Bureau data. Moving to phase 1b would also make those 50 and older in multigenerational homes, but it’s unknown how many people in Cowlitz County are in that category.

In a statement Tuesday, PeaceHealth said because it is committed to ensuring it has second doses, it’s not able to schedule vaccine appointments beyond phase 1a at this time, despite Inslee’s announcement. The organization will notify patients who are eligible to receive vaccine when it has doses to administer.

“As more national and local vaccine supply becomes available, we look forward to working with our public health partners to vaccinate all eligible patients and community members as quickly as possible, including at proposed state-led mass vaccination sites.”

Starting next week, the state will establish multiple mass vaccination sites including at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield.

Vaccines allocated after Monday will be equally distributed between the sites and local clinics and pharmacies to begin vaccinating Washingtonians in phase 1b, according to the state.

According to PeaceHealth, as the state establishes vaccination sites, the organization will receive fewer vaccines and won’t receive any new vaccine for Washington next week.

Cowlitz County Tuesday reported 173 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend and Monday, bringing the total to 3,308.

Wahkiakum County reported four new cases, bringing its total to 71.

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