Seniors in the Clark County area are next on the list to receive COVID-19 immunization. Currently, Washington state remains in Phase 1a of the COVID-19 vaccination plan and is continuing to vaccinate healthcare workers, first responders and residents and employees of long term care centers in the state. Following 1a is stage 1b Tier 1, which includes vaccination of all people aged 70 and older as well as those over 50 living in multigenerational households. “We are working to get everyone in 1a vaccinated so we can move to 1b as quickly as possible,” Clark County Public Health Senior Communications Specialist Marissa Armstrong said.
While Armstrong said the state, county and public health department are working to get everyone in the first phase vaccinated as quickly as possible, there still is not a set timeline as to how long the rest of phase 1a will take. According to Armstrong, the timelines depend on vaccine supply and how much vaccine the state and county have to distribute. Currently, Washington state allocates vaccines to each county and sends COVID-19 vaccinations to facilities around the county. According to Armstrong, Clark County has had nine different distribution facilities since the vaccine rollout began in December.
Armstrong explained that the vaccination process for those in phase 1a has been a joint effort between the public and private sector. A partnership has formed between the federal government and companies such as CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate those living and working in long term care facilities.
For Clark County Public Health, Armstrong said the agency is working to connect people with vaccine opportunities now and in the foreseeable future.
According to Clark County Public Health, vaccination phase 1b will be made up of four “tiers,” each tier adding additional people to the rollout. 1b Tier 1 includes all people over 70 and people over 50 living in multigenerational households. Tier 2 includes high-risk critical workers aged 50 and older working in certain settings such as agriculture, food processing, K-12 education, childcare, corrections, public transit, law enforcement and more. Tier 3 will include everyone over 16 year of age with two or more comorbidities or underlying conditions. Tier 4 will vaccinate high-risk critical workers under 50 in congregate settings like grocery, K-12 education and more.
Armstrong explained that many local healthcare providers will reach out to patients falling into the current and future vaccine rollout category about vaccination opportunities and status. Armstrong mentioned that patients should talk with their healthcare provider about their status for the upcoming 1b rollout plan. However, if you haven’t reached your primary care provider or are unable to learn about upcoming vaccine rollout, Armstrong said Clark County Public Health can connect you with vaccination information and a vaccination site. “On our website there is a form people can fill out with basic information such as names, phone numbers, address and date of birth,” Armstrong said. “We then take that information and connect them with a facility.”
According to Armstrong, it is unknown if there will be any vaccination sites dedicated to senior citizens and other vulnerable populations. However, she said Clark County Public Health is working with partners in the region to get community sites and mobile vaccination units in the future to ensure faster and more efficient vaccine rollout for community members. Some of the biggest barriers to quick vaccinations include space for physical distancing and waiting times.
For those hesitant to take the vaccine, Armstrong said the vaccine is the next crucial step to returning to pre-pandemic normalcy and “ending this pandemic.” Armstrong explained that she understands people's hesitancy to take the COVID-19 vaccination, however, she mentioned that both of the vaccines have gone through clinical trials and the vaccines have been “vetted and safe.” Armstrong said she urges everyone to reach out to their healthcare providers or use the Clark County Public Health Website to schedule a vaccination appointment and get vaccinated as soon as they can. “We are working as quickly as possible to get people who are eligible vaccinated and eager to get more people vaccinated,” Armstrong said. “Vaccination is an important piece to ending this pandemic and returning to normal.”
While vaccinations are on the horizon for the general public and a key part of getting back to life as we knew it, Armstrong said it is incredibly important to remain diligent in following safety protocols such as mask wearing, hand washing and physical distancing. “Being continuous with the preventative measures will be a key piece in protecting yourself and the community and help us get back to normal,” Armstrong said.
More information on the Clark County Public Health vaccine roll out plan can be found at clark.wa.gov/public-health.