SEATTLE — Next month, it could be easier to get a COVID-19 vaccine for those eligible.
State health leaders said in a press conference Thursday that more vaccines are on their way to our state, increasing the supply significantly by mid-March.
This week the state was allocated 260,000 doses. Next week we’re expected to get 280,000 doses, for an increase of 20,000.
Next month looks better. By mid-March, the state is predicting upwards of 310,000 doses a week.
“Supply is increasing, it’s really encouraging,” said, Dan Laster, Director of Washington’s COVID-19 Vaccine Action Command and Coordination System (VACCS).
The expected numbers for March don't account for Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine which could receive emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday or soon after.
“We did get our first allocation number for this vaccine from CDC today and if it gets EUA approval, Washington will be allocated 60,900 of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week,” said Michele Roberts, Acting Assistant Secretary of Health.
And Washington is ready for a boost in doses.
Part of the plan for increased doses means adding more lanes to DOH’s mass vaccination sites.
“Adding a third lane increases throughput by over 30%. Right now, we don’t have the capacity in terms of supply but as our supply increases, we will be able to, in a much more efficient way, get people vaccinated,” Laster said.
It's good news after weather delays held up 90% of Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine supply last week. We’re now catching up, state officials said.
“Almost all orders for the past two weeks have shipped and this week, we’re making up for lost time,” Roberts said.
In a single day this week, the Department of Health’s mass vaccination sites gave over 5,000 doses, breaking a record and leveling the playing field for the shipment expected next week.
New federal guidelines for the Pfizer vaccine are also helping bolster supplies.
“Part of what’s increasing is actually additional vaccine vials, but also part of the increase in out allocation is the fact that now, for the most part, you’re almost always able to get a sixth dose out of the Pfizer vials and that’s how CDC is counting that vial now, as six dose vial of vaccine not a five dose vial,” said Roberts. “This change is subtle, but the extra dose adds up and gives an opportunity to administer more vaccine, which is our goal.”
The state is working with the federal government to get a steady supply of those specialized syringes.
The FDA also issued new guidance on the Pfizer vaccine, which means that providers no longer need to have specialized deep freezers to store the vaccine, making that vaccine unavailable in some parts of the state.