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King County Councilmember proposes putting $5 million toward COVID vaccine distribution

Councilmember Reagan Dunn proposes using CARES Act funds for local distribution of a future vaccine, to help put King County residents 'first in line.'

SEATTLE — When it comes to a COVID-19 vaccine, King County Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn sees an urgent need to get ready.

This is the case especially after Pfizer Inc. announced Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results.

The announcement does not mean a vaccine is imminent, but Dunn sees the news as promising.

"One of the reasons why I've moved so quickly this morning is because we're supposed to vote tomorrow on the COVID supplemental," Dunn said. 

Dunn is proposing an amendment to add $5 million of CARES Act money to Public Health for the purchase, planning and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine when its federally approved. In a news release, Dunn stated that he wants King County residents to be "first in line." 

"Somebody's got to be first," Dunn said. "Now, the federal government will put together its methodology. They're going to put in almost $2 billion for production, and that's good. But the production facilities aren't enough to get that vaccine available worldwide." 

Dunn says Renton would be an good location for a vaccine manufacturing facility. He also points out that King County was the first in the nation to report and respond to a coronavirus outbreak.

"We're by far the biggest county in the state of Washington. What we want to do is set up our public health infrastructure as a model for other communities," Dunn said.

The state recently released an initial vaccination plan, which puts first responders, health care workers, long-term care workers and residents, and those involved in national security at the front of the line.

"Overall allocation will be guided by maximizing the health and societal benefit while taking an equity lens into consideration," according to the state's plan.

But Dunn said his proposal isn't about who goes first, but creating access. 

"Ultimately, it isn't about who's first, second or third," Dunn said. "The bottom line is somebody should be able to drive down the street a couple of blocks to a clinic. If they want a vaccine, get it, and they get it for free." 

King County Council is expected to vote on the fifth COVID Supplemental budget this week.

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