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Who is getting the COVID-19 vaccine first in Washington?

The first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccines are arriving in Washington state. Here's a breakdown on who gets vaccinated first and what happens next.

Washington state is receiving shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine, which has prompted questions from many people about who will get it first. 

The first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Washington state on Monday. The state is expected to receive 62,400 doses of Pfizer's vaccine this week.

Around 500,000 people in Washington are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in its first distribution phase, according to estimates from the state Department of Health. 

Who will be vaccinated first in Washington state

The Washington DOH provided a detailed breakdown of who is eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1a of the distribution process. 

Right now, the first people who will receive the vaccine are among the following populations: high-risk workers in health care settings; high-risk first responders; and residents and staff of nursing homes and assisted living facilities and other congregates living settings where most individuals over 65 years old are receiving care.

Many residents of long-term care facilities will receive the vaccine through a federal pharmacy program that will begin in late December and draw from Washington state's allotment, according to the DOH. 

Per recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), people should get the vaccine if they have not had an active COVID-19 infection in the 90 days prior to vaccination.

The full Phase 1a guidance is available on the state DOH website

Distribution plan in Washington state

The first distribution will go to 17 sites across 13 counties in Washington state. 

Vaccine administration sites have expressed interest in avoiding the burden of assessing eligibility in Phase 1a, the DOH said. One consideration is for health care employers to provide high-risk workers with a voucher or letter including their name and eligibility status, which could be shown along with a badge or ID at an administration site.

The DOH is developing a template for such a voucher and exploring the option to pilot a tool that would allow people to self-assess their eligibility.

The federal government has given Washington state an estimated total distribution of 222,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of December, according to the DOH. Regular weekly shipments should begin in January.

Moderna also submitted an emergency use authorization (EUA) application on November 30, which will be reviewed on Thursday, Dec. 17. If the EUA is granted and the vaccine is approved, Washington state should get about 183,800 doses of the vaccine by the end of December. 

RELATED: Washington could receive 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine by end of December

Who will get the vaccine next?

It's unknown right now who will be vaccinated first in later phases. Washington state is relying on guidance from the ACIP. 

On its website, the CDC writes that the goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine "as soon as large quantities" are available. As vaccine supply increases, ACIP will expand the groups recommended for vaccination.

Washington state will share distribution and prioritization guidelines for future vaccine phases in the coming weeks, according to the DOH. 

DOH documents said it could take two months to cover frontline workers, especially considering the vaccine is two doses. It could take several months for the general public to get vaccines.