King County Executive Dow Constantine wants to build out a system to distribute 16,000 doses a day.
King County Executive Dow Constantine wants to build out a system to distribute 16,000 doses a day. Shitty Screenshot of King County Zoom

King County is stepping up to increase local vaccine distribution. The county will spend $7 million from its budget to set up two high-capacity vaccination sites, mobile vaccination units, and pop-up sites.

The county expects that the state and the federal government will reimburse the county for what Public Health - Seattle & King County (PHSKC) Director Patty Hayes called an "an incredible down payment," she is hoping the local business community will volunteer its resources to help the vaccine rollout.

The goal, according to King County Executive Dow Constantine, is to vaccinate 70% of all adults to "get this pandemic under control." To do that in six months, the county needs to vaccinate 16,000 people a day. At the rate the county is vaccinating now—around 2,000 a day—it'll take 600 days to reach that 70% number. A new and more aggressive vaccine strategy is a must.

By Feb. 1, once vaccine supply is available, Hayes said the county will set up two vaccination sites in South King County where COVID-19 cases remain high and public health disparities run rampant. Those sites will operate similarly to how high-capacity testing sites do now, and they'll be free for everyone. Mobile units of vans or RVs, which Hayes wants up and running ASAP, could do house-to-house visits. Hayes said PHSKC is also working with community centers and faith organizations to establish pop-up sites.

If the local business community wanted to chip in, the process could go even faster.

"We are a county rich with wonderful businesses that have expertise in different areas," Hayes said, "and I’m just hoping to have those conversations and learn on and build off of what they see as possibilities to support [the effort]."

Hayes was clear that the county was interested in monetary support because if businesses use "their own resources [it] allows us to preserve our resources," she said. The county would also like to ask businesses to maybe sponsor a pop-up site in their own buildings, adopt a drive-thru vaccine site, or give their two cents about "logistics," Hayes said.

King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski said he'd like to discuss logistics with businesses like "Amazon" or "Expeditors International" to "help make sure we make this right" and assist the county in "getting the plan strengthened and implemented."

While PHSKC has the "expertise," Dembowski said, it doesn't have the "capacity needed to deploy this vaccine." Dembowski said he was "suggesting that added assistance from folks who do this assistance day in and day out is welcome," but he hasn't spoken with those businesses yet.

Alright, business community, PHSKC is on its knees. Will Microsoft turn its increasingly dusty connector buses into mobile vaccine units? Is Amazon going to latch little supercooled vaccine vials onto its gig workers' blue uniforms to deliver a package and a dose to every adult over 50 living in a congregate multi-generation household? Can we turn the spheres into a giant vaccine pop-up?

I haven't received comment back from Amazon or Microsoft on whether they'd like to help stop the pandemic in their home county. I mean, seems like it's the least our favorite neighborhood bookseller could do after it has profited exponentially from the tragedy. I can't wait to see how the amount Amazon spends on helping the vaccine distribution compares to how much they spend on this year's municipal elections. In 2019, Amazon spent $1.5 million on the city council race. That could fund at least a few vaccine pokes, right?

Those little business dreams are still just dreams. What's real now is that the county will continue working to get vaccine juice into arms with those two South King County sites and mobile units. They'll be vaccinating according to these phases:

Hayes also said the Washington State Department of Health was working on a smartphone app that shows people where they are in line and in what phase they'll be vaccinated. It'll aptly be called "phase finder."

No matter how much the county beefs up its distribution efforts, avoiding any vaccine "bottlenecks," Constantine said, will depend on reducing stress to "stressed supply chains," which threaten to "stretch" the vaccine distribution timeline beyond the planned six months.

President-elect Joe Biden, for his part, said he plans to invoke the Defense Production Act once he takes office to ramp up vaccine production. Biden's plan is to distribute 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.