State reaches 70% vaccine initiation goal

The news surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has improved in recent months, and the state Department of Health had more to announce at a press briefing Wednesday.

The state officially had 70% of its population ages 16 and older receive at least one dose of COVID vaccine. Among residents 18 and older, 75 percent have had at least one dose, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention data.

In Kitsap County, 64% of the population ages 12 and older had initiated vaccination and 60% of residents 12 and up are fully vaccinated, according to the Kitsap Public Health District.

“We have made a tremendous amount of progress in the state of Washington,” said state health secretary Umair A. Shah. “We remain one of the top states when it comes to responding to this pandemic and certainly one of the top states when it comes to vaccinations.”

While the state hitting the milestone does not mean the pandemic is over, hitting the 70% mark represents a significant amount of progress toward having a reasonable level of community immunity. Health experts have said between 70% and 80% of the population would need to be fully vaccinated to reach that level of protection, said Lacy Fehrenbach, the state’s deputy secretary for COVID response.

“This does not mean our work is done, and we stop and go home, and there’s nothing else to do,” Shah said.

The level of disease activity has held steady in Washington over the first two weeks since most restrictions were lifted despite the presence of the delta variant, which is good news, Shah said. Although 40% of new cases are related to the delta variant, few are occurring in patients who have been vaccinated.

“We are not seeing that translate into breakthrough from vaccines,” Shah said, “which is fantastic, because it means the vaccines are working.”

While the pace of vaccinations has slowed overall as more residents initiate the process, state officials said the incentives offered in recent weeks, such as the “Shot of a Lifetime,” which acted as a vaccine lottery, did help fuel a 24% increase in vaccinations.

Although the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC have discussed the possibility of booster shots in the future to help the continuing fight against COVID-19, assistant secretary Michele Roberts said they were not needed at this time.

Residents who are fully vaccinated need not take precautions, though state officials are continuing to advise residents to “respect the room you’re in” and follow guidelines set by individual establishments.