San Juan County Vaccine Q&A

Posted January 8, 2021 at 4:30 am by

Contributed Image/CDC

Who Is Eligible Now, Who Is Next In Line and Where Can You Get Vaccinated?

From San Juan County

This week, Wash­ing­ton State Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee released details on a new two-phase plan for the lim­it­ed reopen­ing of some busi­ness­es and a return of some activ­i­ties. The details are found here

All coun­ties begin in Phase 1, which is very sim­i­lar to the restric­tions cur­rent­ly in place in San Juan Coun­ty (here are full details).

To move to Phase 2, a num­ber of met­rics must be met on a region­al basis. For San Juan Coun­ty, our region includes What­com, Skag­it and Island Coun­ties. Once in Phase 2, the same met­rics must be main­tained to avoid rolling back to Phase 1.

Some high­lights of Phase 2 include indoor din­ing at 25%, indoor fit­ness facil­i­ties at 25%, and a fur­ther loos­en­ing on restric­tions on sports. 

The met­rics will be cal­cu­lat­ed week­ly and will be dis­played on the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health Risk Assess­ment Dash­board. As of Jan. 7, this dash­board is not yet dis­play­ing the region­al metrics. 

At this time there are no details or plans avail­able for any reopen­ing beyond Phase 2. 

Q: Who is eligible for the vaccine now, and who is currently providing vaccinations in San Juan County?

Indi­vid­u­als who fall into Phase 1a are cur­rent­ly eli­gi­ble for vac­ci­na­tion. This group is lim­it­ed to health­care pro­fes­sion­als, emer­gency respon­ders, and staff and res­i­dents of nurs­ing homes and assist­ed liv­ing facilities. 

This guid­ance doc­u­ment from the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health pro­vides detailed infor­ma­tion about who falls into Phase 1a.

As of Jan. 6, the only provider of vac­cine to Phase 1a indi­vid­u­als in the islands is the San Juan Coun­ty Health & Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vices vac­cine team. They are host­ing week­ly clin­ics on each of the islands and per­form­ing direct out­reach to Phase 1a eli­gi­ble orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als to sched­ule vac­cine delivery.

Q: Who is next in line?

On Jan. 6, the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health released guid­ance for Phase 1b and the four tiers with­in 1b. Here is a link to the new infor­ma­tion, and here is a link to a sim­ple graph­ic.

In short, the new eli­gi­bil­i­ty group­ing opens up access to the vac­cine to a much larg­er group of indi­vid­u­als that have been eli­gi­ble in Phase 1a.

Q: When will Phase 1b begin?

An exact date is impos­si­ble to know at this point, but a gen­er­al esti­mate is before the end of Jan­u­ary. Remem­ber though, that doesn’t mean that there will be enough vac­cine on hand to immu­nize every­one in Phase 1b right out of the gate. 

Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing this ques­tion is that the vac­cine requires two dos­es. About the time Phase 1b opens, there will be a need to give sec­ond dos­es, 28 days after the first dose, to every­one who was vac­ci­nat­ed as part of the Phase 1b group. This will fur­ther com­pli­cate the sup­ply chain and deliv­ery issues.

Q: If I’m in Phase 1b, what can I expect, and what should I do now?

The real­i­ty is that there are still lots of unknowns. The two biggest ones are vac­cine avail­abil­i­ty, and the num­ber of providers in the islands who will be deliv­er­ing the vaccine.

There are some things we do know:

  • For some time to come, demand will be greater than supply.
  • Even when the vac­cine is avail­able, not every dose will be giv­en on the first day it is available.
  • To some degree, the sys­tem depends on peo­ple being hon­est about their eli­gi­bil­i­ty. And yes, clear­ly there will be indi­vid­u­als who break that trust, but the hope is that the vast major­i­ty of islanders will be respect­ful and truth­ful when it comes time for Phase 1b. While health­care providers will be eval­u­at­ing all requests to some extent, they do not have the time to be inves­ti­gat­ing every indi­vid­ual claim of eli­gi­bil­i­ty. Just like kinder­garten­ers lin­ing up for lunch, don’t cut the line.

At this time, indi­vid­u­als in Phase 1b should not con­tact the health depart­ment or their med­ical providers. There is no sign-up list. Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Health does have a tool to eval­u­ate eli­gi­bil­i­ty and to noti­fy indi­vid­u­als when it is their turn. The move to Phase 1b will be very well-pub­li­cized, includ­ing in local media and on the San Juan Coun­ty COVID-19 Vac­cine infor­ma­tion page

Over­all, the mes­sage to the pub­lic is please be patient. Just like wait­ing in line to get into the sta­di­um for a Sea­hawks game, every­one will get in, but it will take time and decency.

Q: Will any other medical providers or pharmacies be delivering the vaccine?

Yes. A num­ber of local health­care providers and phar­ma­cies are in var­i­ous stages of apply­ing to the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health to be approved as vac­cine providers. Some have been approved and are await­ing the vac­cine, and oth­ers are work­ing their way through the process. The deci­sion to deliv­er the COVID vac­cine or not is a choice made at the provider or busi­ness level.

Once a provider has been approved and has the vac­cine on hand, they will begin deliv­er­ing the vac­cine to those eli­gi­ble at the time to receive the immunization.

Q: How much vaccine does San Juan County Health & Community Services have on hand, and how much has been delivered?

San Juan County’s vac­cine team ini­tial­ly received a ship­ment of 600 dos­es of the Mod­er­na vac­cine, and an addi­tion­al 200 dos­es have just arrived as well. 

Of that total sup­ply of 800 dos­es, approx­i­mate­ly 250 dos­es have been admin­is­tered to date at clin­ics on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Islands. These events have been led by San Juan Coun­ty Health and Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vices with incred­i­ble sup­port from local EMS agen­cies. At least an addi­tion­al 250 indi­vid­u­als will be immu­nized by the end of next week, and between 150–200 dos­es will be pro­vid­ed to local health­care providers to sup­port their vac­cine efforts once their final Wash­ing­ton DOH approval is grant­ed. As with all immu­niza­tion pro­grams, local health­care providers will play a vital role in the deliv­ery of vaccines. 

All of these dos­es are being pro­vid­ed to local Phase 1a indi­vid­u­als: emer­gency respon­ders, health­care work­ers (includ­ing sup­port staff), and long-term care facil­i­ty res­i­dents and staff.

It is hoped that all Phase 1a indi­vid­u­als in San Juan Coun­ty will be immu­nized with­in the first two weeks of Jan­u­ary and that the coun­ty team will be well poised for the move to Phase 1b.

Q:  When will more of the vaccine arrive on the islands?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the exact tim­ing of the arrival of addi­tion­al vac­cine is unknown at this time. San Juan Coun­ty has been promised by the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health that sec­ond dos­es of each immu­niza­tion giv­en will be deliv­ered to San Juan Coun­ty in time for the sec­ond round of immu­niza­tions (remem­ber, all vac­cines being deliv­ered at moment require two dos­es, 28 days apart). 

Clear­ly, this isn’t the most sat­is­fy­ing answer, but remain­ing patient is the key.

Q: Where can I learn more?

Reminders

Patience and flex­i­bil­i­ty are required. As with all things COVID, the details, tim­ing and under­stand­ing of every­thing about the COVID vac­cine will shift from week to week, if not day to day. Many details are only esti­mates at this time.

No sin­gle orga­ni­za­tion is respon­si­ble for the vac­cine effort. It will take a well-coor­di­nat­ed cam­paign between phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies, local health­care providers and phar­ma­cies, deliv­ery ser­vices, all lev­els of gov­ern­ment, response agen­cies, and a range of non-prof­it com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions. There will be bumps in the road – this is a com­plex undertaking.

Just because peo­ple are get­ting immu­nized does not mean that we can relax our safe­ty pre­cau­tions. Even those who are vac­ci­nat­ed may still have the abil­i­ty to trans­mit the dis­ease in some cas­es (the vac­cine may pre­vent severe ill­ness, but may allow for asymp­to­matic or mild infec­tion where trans­mis­sion may still be possible).

To sum­ma­rize: patience, decen­cy, and flex­i­bil­i­ty will be the keys to get­ting through this final stage of the pan­dem­ic. Demand will be greater than sup­ply. Some will get the vac­cine before oth­ers. There will be some indi­vid­u­als who lie or mis­rep­re­sent their sit­u­a­tion in order to jump the line, while oth­ers will sac­ri­fice their turn for the greater good. The sit­u­a­tion will bring out the best and worst in peo­ple. For the islands, our most thought­ful and suc­cess­ful approach is to remain informed, engaged, empa­thet­ic, and decent towards one anoth­er. Near­ly every­one is doing the best they can in a ter­ri­bly dif­fi­cult situation. 

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