As COVID-19 case counts begin to surge upward thanks likely to the spread of variants facilitated in part by the state's decision to ease restrictions on activities, today Governor Jay Inslee said all Washingtonians over 16 can schedule a vaccine starting April 15, which beats Biden's deadline by a couple weeks.
According to prepared remarks, Inslee's reasons for speeding up the eligibility timeline once again include the federal government's promise to continue increasing allocations and also the vaccine's potential to fight "the disturbing trend of rising cases in many parts of our state." The approved vaccines have been shown to prevent illness and hospitalizations, and a couple recent studies "heavily suggest" that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines might be effective at preventing transmission as well.
As for supply...well, the news today that the Feds had to toss "about 15 million doses" of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after some humans erred might complicate that picture, though the New York Times reports that "federal officials still expect to have enough doses to meet President Biden’s commitment to provide enough vaccine by the end of May to immunize every adult."
"The J&J situation" wont' change this new eligibility date, Inslee said.
Inslee's decision comes shortly after governors in New York and California scheduled near-universal eligibility expansion for mid-April, joining dozens of other states in that commitment.
"Many of us will need to have continued patience, but I'm so happy about the rate" at which the state is administering the vaccine, Inslee said.
The expanded eligibility may trouble the state's stated desire to achieve equity in distribution, which continues to lag a little bit, according to the Department of Health's dashboard. Though nearly 73% of people over 65 have received at least one dose of a vaccine, Hispanic and Asian communities have been vaccinated at disproportionally low rates.
In King County, 70% of all people over 65 in every racial and ethnic group have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and the county is "making steady progress closing the equity gap for hardest hit populations," health chief Dr. Jeff Duchin said on Twitter.
1/ Milestone today: All racial/ethnic groups in King County now above 70% "1-dose or more" vaccination rate for ages 65+. Also 24% of those 18-49 years have 1+ dose & 43% of those 50-64 years.
Details here: https://t.co/Dajrxss473 pic.twitter.com/rZDl57l37A
— Jeffrey Duchin, MD (@DocJeffD) March 30, 2021
Inslee admitted the state "still needs to make progress in that regard," referring to equity.
He also expressed concern for the "28% of people over 65 who still have not received a vaccine, which amounts to over 330,000 people "in the danger zone." He called on "all of us" to talk to people "of a certain age" and "urge them to get the vaccine." One survey found that 1/4 of Republicans and 1/3 of rural residents "say they will either “definitely not” get vaccinated or will do so 'only if required.'"
State Department of Health secretary Umair Shah reiterated Inslee's call, and said anyone can schedule if they call the state's hotline: 1 (800) 525-0127. Your grandparents can also schedule online if they have a computer a know how to use it.
Shah also said to stay "emotionally together but physically separate" for any upcoming Easter, Ramadan, or March Madness plans you may have made to help stop the spread.
This is a developing story, so I'll be posting some more updates soon.