PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Seattle may have hit the magic 70% mark when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, but other parts of the region are lagging way behind.
"This is obviously very frustrating for us," said Dr. Anthony Chen, who leads the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
Chen said COVID-19 rates are still higher in parts of the county where vaccination rates are low. Many zip codes have populations where 50% or less of the residents have even started the vaccination process. Chen said Tacoma is a highlight in that 51% of residents are fully vaccinated, but that's still 19 points lower than Seattle.
"You know, the politics of different demographics, different economies, the urban-rural ratio is very different," said Chen, who added that vaccinations also appear to be dropping off. "The rate of uptake of vaccine has clearly slowed. And as I said, we were heartened two weeks ago when we saw the numbers that jumped back up to about 5,000 doses a day. But then, to see the following week we dropped down to 2,800 a day."
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called the 70% vaccination rate a "watershed moment." She suggested mass vaccination sites at places like the Lumen Field Events Center were key in hitting the mark.
"I think that we are ready to reopen, but it will be a dial, not a light switch," said Durkan.
Still, Durkan said people should remain cautious. "Ninety-seven to 98% of the new cases are people who aren't vaccinated. We know vaccines are saving lives," she explained..
Snohomish County only updates district vaccination rates on a monthly basis, and at last check, had multiple cities like Everett at or near the 50% vaccination mark.
Back in Pierce County, sisters Cheryl Carrington and Julie Westbrook said they were vaccinated months ago. Yet, they understood why there was trepidation.
"I think there are a lot of phobias that haven't been dispelled yet," said Westbrook. "You don't know who to believe anymore. One doctor says this, the head of the CDC is fluctuating as well."
"We want our life back, we want to go to the movies, I want to go to the fair," said Carrington about why she decided to get vaccinated.
Chen said, "We're trying different strategies. You know, we're moving away from the mass vaccination strategies." That will mean more targeted, smaller efforts or going neighborhood to neighborhood to get shots in arms, Chen said.
"We know that the vaccine helps our economy," said Chen.