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COVID-19 vaccinations appear to be driving down infections in Washington state

Health leaders are optimistic we may be at a turning point against the coronavirus, and vaccinations are helping drive down infections and hospitalizations.

SEATTLE — Doctors in western Washington said Monday that COVID-19 vaccinations may be starting to drive infection rates back down. 

As of May 8, 2021, 56% of Washingtonians age 16 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 43% were fully vaccinated, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). 

After a fourth surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the rate of hospitalizations is now beginning to go down as well, according to DOH data. 

"Two weeks ago, we were seeing some really sharp jumps in vaccinations across the state," said Cassie Sauer, the president and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), which held its weekly briefing Monday morning.

"I think we’re looking potentially at our last big surge," said Dr. John Lynch, Infectious Disease Specialist for UW Medicine at Harborview in Seattle, who helps lead his organization's response to COVID-19.

Harborview is still treating some of the hardest cases, such as those involving young people who are very sick, and unvaccinated. 

But while COVID-19 victims from around the state are still brought to Seattle for treatment, there is growing hope that the worst may be behind us, with some caveats. 

"The short answer is, yes, I think we are at an inflection point, and only the next few weeks is going to tell us," said Lynch, who noted this stands as along as there's nothing major to shake up the status quo, like a new variant that could get past vaccines. 

Another positive note was sounded by Renee Rassilyer-Bomers, the chief quality officer for Swedish Medical Center who also oversees the mass vaccination site at Lumen Field operated jointly with the city of Seattle.

She said Lumen Field is handling up to 200 people who walk up each hour to get a vaccine. The mass vaccination site is open again on Wednesday, and Rassilyer-Bomers said the site has already dispensed 85,000 doses.

Sauers, with the WSHA, urged that it's no longer hard to find a vaccine in Washington, compared to weeks ago when signing up for an appointment was the toughest part. 

"You can get a vaccine anywhere, just about," said Sauers. "You can get them at pharmacies, sports events, community and mass vaccination sites."

State health officials also said Monday, that with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine getting emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to be used in children ages 12 to 15, it will also continue to help bringing infection rates down.

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