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Expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all before May 1 a possibility, Inslee says

If Washington state receives enough COVID-19 doses in the coming weeks, there's a chance everyone could be eligible for the vaccine.

ANACORTES, Wash. — While referencing the "race" between administering the COVID-19 vaccine to Washingtonians and variants of the virus, Gov. Jay Inslee said there's a possibility the vaccine could be made available to everyone before May 1.

However, that may only be possible if the state sees a "rapid pace" of doses delivered in the next few weeks.

For now, the state will work to vaccinate as many vulnerable community members as possible before eligibility expands to everyone 16 years or older on May 1 – as directed by President Joe Biden.

"We're certainly continuing to do what we believe is best for the state of Washington. But I do want to say that we are having discussions about the data," said Dr. Umair Shah, the state's secretary of health. "If we can advance it sooner, then we're absolutely going to do that. But again, right now, we want to balance that with also making sure that eligibility for those most at risk is still there."

Millions of Washingtonians are waiting their turn for the COVID-19 vaccine as health officials warn of a potential fourth surge in cases. 

On March 26, King County's top health official Dr. Jeff Duchin said recent King County data shows "there's a good chance we're looking at the beginning of a fourth wave." 

Duchin said new variants of the virus remain a concern in the country, including two new variants which emerged in California. At least 400 cases of the California variants have been detected in Washington since December, according to new data released by the Washington State Department of Health.

Though more vulnerable people are being vaccinated, Inslee pointed out that cases among younger people are on the rise. That includes college students, who he asked to continue wearing masks and "stop partying all night irresponsibly." 

As of March 17, Washington is in Tier 2 of Phase 1B, which expanded vaccine eligibility to critical workers in certain congregate settings, such as grocery stores, transit and law enforcement. Anyone 16 or older who is pregnant is also eligible. 

On March 31, another two million in Washington will become eligible. Vaccine appointments will open for:

  • Anyone with two or more diseases or medical conditions
  • Anyone 60 and older
  • Anyone living in congregate settings (correctional facilities, group homes for those with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, etc.)
  • Additional workers in congregate settings (restaurants, manufacturing, construction)

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