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Pierce County executive, Inslee disagree over COVID-19 vaccine supply demands

The back and forth started Tuesday when Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier urged Governor Inslee's office to increase the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine.

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and Gov. Jay Inslee are in a disagreement over the COVID-19 vaccine supply. 

This comes just before everyone 16 and older will be eligible to get the shot on April 15.

The back-and-forth over vaccine supply started Tuesday when Dammeier urged the Governor’s Office to increase the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine by 15,000 doses per week. 

The request followed the announcement that Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman counties were rolled back to Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan due to an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalization. Restaurants and other businesses in those counties are once again back to 25% capacity.

“The rollback is a definite frustrating event for the people of Pierce County and, for me, as their executive,” Dammeier previously said.

He believes the current vaccine distribution system is broken.

“To me, that’s a supply problem," he said. "We’ve got more than enough capacity in people who are out there and delivering jabs in arms. So to me ... we’re not getting sufficient supply of doses in from the state."

Inslee responded to Dammeier with a two-page letter addressed to the county executive directly. 

The governor says that based on discussions with the secretary of health, he believes Pierce County has received “97 percent of its expected doses," adding that, "As of April 11, vaccine providers in Pierce County had 27,876 doses delivered on their shelves but not administered.”

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department says those nearly 28,000 doses were “designated either for second dose appointments” or for providers to redistribute and have since been used.

On April 13, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Health Director Dr. Anthony Chen pointed to social distancing and mask-wearing as the only way to immediately slow the spread of COVID-19 in Pierce County.

“Whatever vaccine we can get is going to help. But people should not look to the vaccine as the solution right now,” Chen said.

As for Inslee and the Pierce County executive, they both agree that Pierce County hasn't received the full amount promised by the state -- where they disagree is by how much.

In a statement sent to KING 5, Dammeier says his concern is more fundamental about the vaccination and recovery process.

“A process that puts Pierce County tens of thousands of vaccines behind —and then rolls us back to Phase 2 — is broken.”