EVERETT, Wash. — The first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Washington state on Monday, starting the challenging work to get those who are most at risk vaccinated.
Frontline workers at the University of Washington Medical Center are among those set to receive those first vaccines Tuesday. A UW Medicine spokesperson said the employees receiving the vaccine are nurses, doctors, environmental-services staff, and respiratory-care therapists.
The vaccine was authorized by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The Western States Workgroup, comprised of vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, has been meeting to review the data and analysis to ensure the safety and efficacy of all vaccines federally authorized.
The state was expected to receive 62,400 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
The first groups to receive the vaccine will be those most at risk, including frontline healthcare workers, along with firefighter-paramedics, ambulance drivers and others who risk coming into direct contact with patients infected with COVID-19.
Gov. Jay Inslee said he would get the vaccine himself once he is eligible.
Experts said in the testing of the vaccine, it was found to be 95% effective.
But, even with more than 62,000 doses, Michele Roberts with the state Department of Health said it's not enough.
"It’s tight right now. 62,000 doses of vaccine is not enough for that whole 1A group, which is at least a half-million people," said Roberts, acting assistant secretary of the DOH.
DOH documents said it could take two months to cover frontline workers, especially considering it's a two-dose vaccination. It could take several months for the general public to get vaccines.
But Roberts seemed hopeful.
The state is expected to get a total of 222,000 doses of Pfizer's vaccine by the end of December. Roberts also expects the Moderna vaccine to be approved for distribution in a week or two. If approved, Washington could receive 180,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine by the end of the month.
In total, the state could receive about 400,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December.
Other vaccines are also coming up for final review in the next several months.
Overlake Medical Center is one of several approved sites preparing to inoculate workers when they get the vaccine. Overlake has the specialized storage and facilities needed for the vaccine and plans to use part of an auditorium to help administer shots and allow people to socially distance themselves for a few moments afterward.
They will use an algorithm to make sure employees get shots at the end of a shift and have a few days to deal with any side effects before they work again.
With a state population of over 7 million, health officials will need all the doses of the vaccine they can get.
In all of this, many people are wondering when will it be their turn to get vaccinated?
"We’re working internally right now on all of those decisions on who’s coming next," said Roberts. "Who’s next after this 1A group will not start happening until mid-January. And a lot of this is going to be informed about how this goes, how many people decide to get vaccinated, and we’re still waiting for information from the federal government on what our ongoing allocations will be -- how much vaccine is going to be coming into Washington state after January first."