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Sequim residents wait hours to get COVID-19 vaccine as Washington tries to ramp up supply

As Washington state struggles to administer the vaccine quickly, health officials in Sequim are banding together to try and streamline the process for residents.

SEQUIM, Wash. — In the city of Sequim, in Clallam County, residents have complained of long lines to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and wait times that stretch hours long.

Steven Jensen said he had to wait around eight hours in the dark to get vaccinated on Tuesday.

“Well, sitting in the car, in the dark for eight hours or so. [It’s] kind of tough,” he said. “But it’s worth it.”

Now an effort is underway to accelerate the distribution process in Sequim, as more people are now eligible for the vaccine.

RELATED: Many Washington residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine can't find available doses

Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday expanded the state's Phase 1B vaccination criteria to include people age 65 and older in an effort to get more people vaccinated. 

Inslee said he wants to get to 45,000 COVID-19 vaccinations every day in the state, but acknowledged that that goal is higher than the state's current vaccine allocation by the federal government.

But as more people are qualified to receive the vaccine, communities like Sequim are struggling to keep up with the demand.

RELATED: Counties struggle for COVID-19 vaccine supply as Washington state expands eligibility

In order to bring those wait times down, emergency services and volunteers have stepped up to help.

Sequim’s police and fire departments are now coordinating their efforts to streamline the vaccination process. People in line Tuesday seemed to appreciate the effort.

"It's a really nice day, it moved fast and it was well-organized, and wonderful volunteers," said one man, who was waiting in line for the vaccine.

Now that the city has a process in place, medical administrators are hoping to expand their programs to get the vaccine out as quickly as possible in order to achieve herd immunity.

“We’ve done the projections here in this county,” said Brent Simcosky, director of Health Services at the Jamestown Family Health Center. “We have fellow clinics in Port Angeles, 14 miles to the west of here, they’re doing mass vaccine clinics in a gymnasium on Saturday and Sunday, they can’t get hardly any supply at all."

"We’ve done projections that between the two of us, we could almost get this county to herd immunity in six months," continued Simcosky. 

Simcosky said he hopes the incoming Biden administration will get to work on making more of the vaccine so he can get them out, and so Sequim can begin moving past this crisis.

“There really was a lot of depression, anxiety, stress in the community, and it feels very happy now," Simcosky said. "When we vaccinate, it almost feels like a party atmosphere. We have to tell people you can’t do anything yet, you have to wait for the next vaccine and you still have to wear masks, but they really feel like they can see that there’s an end to this now."

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