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Washington starts COVID-19 vaccine Phase 1B with lower age threshold and adds more mass vaccine sites

People age 65 and older are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine under Phase 1B. Previously it was people over 70.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced changes Monday to COVID-19 vaccine administration, a new statewide public-private partnership for vaccine distribution, and an expansion of the state's Phase 1B vaccination criteria.

The governor announced that effective immediately, the state is moving to Phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccination plan. 

He changed who qualifies for vaccines under the first tier of Phase 1B to include people 65 and older, previously it was people over 70. This tier will also include people over 50 years old who live in multigenerational households. 

Click here for more information on multigenerational households.

Tier 2 of Phase 1B includes high-risk critical workers 50 years and older who work in certain congregate settings.

The state will allow providers flexibility for Phase 1B tier 2 through tier 4 eligible individuals to allow for easier administration of the vaccine in congregate settings and workplaces to help increase the output of the vaccine.

The governor also said Monday that starting now, 95% of future vaccine allocations are required to be given in the first week after receipt, and every dose allocated prior to this week must be administered by this Sunday, Jan. 24.

"There are simply too many people who need access to COVID vaccines for this process to lag any further," Inslee said during the press conference Monday.

RELATED: Washington launches more robust PhaseFinder tool to determine COVID-19 vaccine eligibility

Inslee also announced a new private-public partnership with Microsoft and Starbucks to form the Washington State Vaccine Command and Coordination Center. It will be led by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), business partners and local health care and labor leaders, including Kaiser Permanente and Costco.

According to the governor's Medium page, some stakeholder responsibilities include:

  • Kaiser Permanente: planning expertise for mass vaccination clinics and the distribution of vaccine to healthcare providers throughout the state.
  • Starbucks: operational efficiency, scalable modeling and human-centered design expertise and support.
  • Microsoft: technology expertise and support.
  • Costco: vaccine delivery by pharmacies.
  • SEIU 1199NW: coordination of volunteer vaccinators to locations where they are most needed.
  • UFCW 21: staffing and training coordination of vaccinators.
  • WSNA: safety and health consultation for providers.
  • SeaMar: voice for historically underserved communities
  • National Guard: logistics and infrastructure support

The governor said that no public dollars are being given to the private companies to participate in this effort.

"This team will coordinate all available resources to administer more vaccines in the state of Washington in the fastest and most efficient way possible," said Inslee during the news conference. "This is a talented group with a lot of expertise that can help us administer vaccines."

Inslee said it is part of a goal to get to 45,000 COVID-19 vaccinations every day in Washington state.

"This goal is higher than our current vaccine allocation by the federal government by several fold, but trying to meet this goal now will help us get the infrastructure in place as doses increase," said Inslee.

The governor said the state will work with the National Guard and local health officials to set up four mass COVID-19 vaccination sites to begin vaccine administration starting next week. The sites will be the Spokane Arena in Spokane, the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick, Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee, and the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield. 

These four sites are in addition to vaccination centers already established in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. The state said under this new plan, those sites in western Washington will be getting extra support as well.

The state’s vaccine allocation next week will be split between these sites, pharmacies, and local clinics to help with Phase 1B vaccinations, Inslee said.

Visit the state Department of Health COVID-19 vaccine webpage to learn more about when and where you can get vaccinated.

As of Jan. 16, Washington has given out 294,386 doses of the vaccine since the first phase of the vaccine rollout -- Phase 1A -- began, according to Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah with the state DOH. That phase includes high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents. 

Shah said the state has received a total of 696,075 doses of the vaccine so far. That means at least 42% of the state's vaccines have been administered to people, which is an improvement from previous weeks when the state was only at 19%, Shah said. 

The state will continue to get at least 100,000 doses of the vaccine each week, health officials said.

The state also rolled out a more robust version of the PhaseFinder Tool on Monday. The online program allows people to input personal details like age, health conditions and if they are an essential worker, as well as contact information. Using this information, DOH will determine vaccine eligibility and notify residents by email or text message when it’s their turn.