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

One million more people are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Washington, but the supply of doses has not kept pace.

MONROE, Wash. — The first tier of Phase 1B of Washington state’s vaccination plan added about a million people to the list of those eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Washington.

While the number of eligible people went up, the number of vaccines stayed the same.

Snohomish County’s mass vaccination site, the Evergreen State Fair Grounds, was busy Tuesday. But the big issue for Snohomish County, and other counties, is there is not enough vaccine for the number of people now eligible.

“The bottom line is we need more vaccines for our drive-through sites. I am frustrated and find it frustrating that we’re having to fight for extra doses each week,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said.

RELATED: Many Washington residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are struggling to find available doses

The move into Phase 1B added 150,000 people to Snohomish County's list of those now eligible for the vaccine.

The county has three mass vaccination sites set up and plans to create nine more, but there’s a hold-up: too many people, not enough doses.

“We can’t schedule appointments without knowing that we have vaccine coming. So, it’s a challenge,” said Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters.

Snohomish County’s focus remains on vaccinating those who qualify in Phase 1A.

“The goal is to get you all vaccinated and keep you safe as soon as feasible and we’re all working towards that goal every day, but the first order of business is to defuse the threat of an overwhelming hospital surge,” Spitters said.

King County has the same hold-up.

“Our main challenge is not having enough vaccines and not being able to plan adequately for upcoming clinics to draw people in when we don’t know what number of doses we’ll be receiving,” said Seattle-King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.

King County is working to have mass vaccination clinics up and running by Feb. 1 and they are working with businesses to get it done.

But it all hinges on how many doses the county can get, and how quickly.

“The state made it very clear that the vaccine allocation right now is not going to be increasing. I’m hopeful with the Biden administration that a breakthrough will come,” said Seattle-King County Public Health Director Patty Hayes.

The Pierce County Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve a $4 million plan to build mass vaccination sites.

“Under the circumstances, $4 million is justified. It makes sense in the fiscal picture as well and I think this the right vote to take,” said District 4 Councilmember Hans Zeiger.

The only dissenting vote came from District 3 Councilmember Amy Cruver.

“I’m not convinced that $4 million is going to be a cure-all for this when there is federal, state things in the works for this. Maybe we’re doing double duty that we don’t need to do,” she said.

RELATED: Pierce County approves $4 million to help establish mass COVID-19 vaccination sites

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