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Mad dash for COVID-19 vaccines: Washington residents line up in search of doses

Dozens of people lined up outside a Sea Mar Community Health Center in White Center hours before it opened for a first-come, first-served vaccine clinic.

SEATTLE — All Washington residents age 16 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, but state health officials warned this does not mean there is enough supply to meet demand.

Many vaccine appointments booked up before eligibility opened to around 1.5 million additional residents Thursday.

Walk-in clinics are one option for people who were unable to get an appointment booked before eligibility expanded.

Sea Mar Community Health Centers is hosting walk-in clinics where people are given COVID-19 vaccine doses on a first-come, first-served basis. But residents searching for a vaccine should plan on getting there early. The Sea Mar clinic in White Center ran out of vaccine doses in about 25 minutes Thursday morning.

Dozens of people lined up outside the clinic Thursday morning hoping to get a dose of the vaccine. Jaira Amaya was the first person in line. 

“We are here since 4 a.m. because this is the best option,” he explained.

Amaya drove from Kent with his aunt and sister to wait outside hours before the clinic opened.

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“I can find people here that speak my same language. Maybe I can understand better because my first language is Spanish,” said Amaya. “So, I think this is a great opportunity for me. I was here before, so I feel here more comforted.”

Amaya said the language barrier has been a challenge for his family, and he knew this was his best shot and making sure they were protected against COVID-19.

“Maybe my English is not perfect, but we have the opportunity for getting the vaccine,” he said. “I see it as, like, opportunity. Opportunity, your same language, opportunity, being the first, opportunity being here. So, maybe some people think it’s bad and not want to get the vaccine, but for me, it’s opportunity.”

While the vaccine supply is increasing, there are not yet enough doses to meet the demand. The state Department of Health said Washington is getting 100,000 fewer doses than expected due to the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

While it will most likely be a challenge to find open appointments, there are options available.

You can book appointments through doctor's offices and pharmacies. You can also check online for open slots at mass vaccination sites run by cities, counties, the state and the federally run vaccination site in Yakima.

David Green, the director of pharmacy operations for the Albertson's Company, said they get vaccine doses directly from the federal government, which has helped with predicting how many appointments they can handle. However, Green warned it is still going to take time to get your shot if your appointment isn’t already booked.

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“It’s going to take some weeks and time to get everybody through the line to take care of people,” explained Green. “There’s just not enough providers and vaccine to take care of the entire line right now, but we’re getting a healthy amount of allocation. We’re getting good information every week, and then the other thing I know the capacity that my team can deliver every week. So, when you combine the amount we’re getting and knowing how many appointments we can make, and what’s the top amount of vaccines we can do, yeah, I think it makes it predictable for us.”

Last week, the City of Seattle opened a vaccination appointment notification list for eligible residents. Preregistration is available for anyone 16 or older, residents who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination and anyone who lives or works in King County.

Anyone who needs help filling out the vaccination appointment notification list can call the Customer Service Bureau at 206-684-2489 for assistance. The bureau is open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Washington residents can also use the Vaccine Locator tool to register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.