WENATCHEE, Wash. — Wenatchee's state-run mass vaccination site is crucial in getting doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to hard to reach and rural communities in a central part of our state.
"We want to use every single tool in our toolbox to make sure we protect our community,” said Luke Davies, health administrator for Chelan and Douglas counties.
A new vaccine coming down the pipeline could make that goal more attenable.
It's another step toward vaccine accessibility for a couple of reasons.
"It doesn't need to be at negative-80 [degrees], these liquid nitrogen kind of freezers, it's way more stable and, of course, it's a one dose vaccine,” Fred Hutch virologist Dr. Larry Corey said.
This means no return trip for a second dose and the vaccine is a lot easier to get from point A to point B.
"That will ease transportation and storage issues and the need for reminders and people coming back to potentially a distant place from where they live to get a second dose. Those are huge, huge,” said UW Epidemiologist Dr. Janet Baseman.
It's huge for places like Chelan and Douglas counties and other rural areas in Washington state.
It opens the possibility of bringing mobile vaccine units to communities without vaccine providers, according to public health officials.
"That will allow us to provide and prioritize mobile clinics and other providers who may have a hard time with the Pfizer and Moderna cold chain, but be able to make sure that we're showing up in rural places in our health district to make sure that those vaccines get to those people,” Davies said.
While the vaccine looks promising, the Wenatchee mass vaccination site will stick with the Pfizer vaccine, at least for now.
"One thing that we have to be mindful of for our site at the Town Toyota Center, is that we want to make sure that folks will come back and get their second dose and you have to get the same brand. So, we’re pretty committed to Pfizer here right now, of course as things change as we learn more about the vaccines and have more opportunities for other brands, it’s certainly a possibility," said site lead Cory Portner with the Washington State Department of Health.
The FDA could grant the authorization within weeks, and Johnson & Johnson is expected to provide 100 million doses to the U.S. by June.