Washington's new Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah says the state's early vaccine rollout has not been good enough, noting a surplus in both Moderna and Pfizer vaccine doses.
Gov. Jay Insee appointed Shah to replace former health secretary John Wiesman. It's a pressure-packed welcome for Dr. Shah to navigate the state's vaccine distribution, which is unprecedented in scope.
"I think the first order of business, as you can imagine, has been really understanding the landscape," Shah told KING 5 Monday.
He acknowledged the state has already fallen behind. Of the hundreds of thousands of doses in Washington state, only 19% have been administered.
"19% is not good enough," Shah said. "It's not going to be where we need to be as a state, and we are looking now to how we are going to address that."
By his early estimation, Shah said local health departments have been overwhelmed.
He said local health officials "are also doing contact tracing and doing, you know, testing and doing epidemiologic investigation and doing all sorts of other logistics, so it's not surprising that it's going to take time."
KING 5's Chris Daniels asked Shah, "How do you speed it up, though? Is there a concern, especially with some of these vaccines that have spoilage?"
Shah replied, "There is spoilage that can happen, if it's on the day where the vaccine is now taken out of - whether a freezer, refrigerator - and now it's ready to be administered and you haven't, you don't have somebody to administer it to." He added the vaccines can be otherwise stored for longer periods of time.
Shah said he is not in favor of making broad changes to the state's implementation.
Daniels asked, "What about the idea of just issuing one dose to people to try and speed up this process to get more people at least that first dose of the vaccine?"
"Right now, I'm not in favor of going that route," Shah said. "But again, we're going to keep watching this, we're going to keep monitoring this, we're going to keep looking at additional information if it looks like that helps us."