State releases next phase of vaccine prioritization

Washington state is still in Phase 1A for administering the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, but state officials explained this week the next groups of folks who will be eligible to receive the shots.

Right now, the vaccine is limited to at-risk workers in health care, high-risk first responders, and residents and staff atlong-term care facilities. The Department of Health only has rough timelines for when new groups of residents will become eligible.

State officials said the goal is to move into the next phase by mid-January.

“We will share that information broadly when we are ready to move,” DOH assistant secretary Michele Roberts, a leader of the state’s vaccine effort, said at Wednesday’s news briefing. “But we’re not there yet.”

Phase 1B1 – (Tier 1)

  • All people 70 years and older.
  • People 50 and older who live in multigenerational households.

Phase 1B2 – (Tier 2)

  • High risk critical workers 50 years and older who work in certain congregate settings: Agriculture; food processing; grocery stores; K-12 (teachers and school staff); child care; corrections, prisons, jails or detention facilities (staff); public transit; fire; law enforcement.

Phase 1B3 – (Tier 3)

  • People 16 years or older with two or more co-morbidities or underlying conditions.

Phase 1B4 – (Tier 4)

  • High-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings under 50 years.
  • People, staff and volunteers of all ages in congregate living settings: Correctional facilities; group homes for people with disabilities; people experiencing homelessness who live in or access services in congregate settings.

“These are really tough decisions,” Roberts said. “We wish there was vaccine right away for all.”

State residents will be able to track which groups are available for the vaccine through an online tool that is expected to launch Jan. 18. The tool, known as the “Phase Finder,” will allow folks to assess their eligibility for the vaccine.

The DOH is also introducing a vaccine dashboard that will be updated three times per week for state residents to track vaccine data.

As of Tuesday, Washington had received 522,550 doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and 24.2 percent (126,602) had been administered. However, due to the three-day lag in data reporting, that number is likely much higher.

The state is expecting in its next allocation 62,400 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 44,850 first doses; and 44,100 first doses of the Moderna vaccine and an additional 200 doses placed for allocation available from a prior week.

From that allocation, 103,825 doses will go to 135 sites in 34 counties; 47,725 doses will go to long-term care facilities, five tribes and Urban Indian Health Programs.

Disease activity trending down

The state hit a definitive peak in COVID cases Dec. 4, when the seven-day rolling average of new daily cases was 3,027. Since then the epidemiological curve is showing a downward trend. However, because this most recent wave of confirmed cases was so massive, overall disease activity remains higher than the two prior waves. In Kitsap County, there have been seven deaths in the past week, the most since the epidemic began in March.

“Because disease activity has been so high during this third wave, we still need to see a dramatic decrease before moving forward with reopening,” state health secretary Umair Shah said.

It’s too soon to tell if there will be a post-holiday spike — data on the DOH website shows a sharper decrease during the week of Christmas, which saw a drop in testing as well, with a smaller rebound beginning in the new year. However, that data is still incomplete.