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Washington state announces 'interim' coronavirus vaccine distribution plan

The details of Washington state’s COVID-19 vaccine plan are still in their preliminary stages, but 'equitable distribution' of the vaccine will remain a priority.

Washington state has an "interim COVID-19 vaccination plan" in place.

The plan, which was released Wednesday, is the state's response to the request from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for state health departments to outline their preliminary plans for vaccine distribution.

“We want to emphasize that this is the first version of our plan,” said Michele Roberts, acting assistant secretary with executive oversight for COVID-19 vaccines. “This is essentially a living document. But the one thing that won’t change is our focus on equitable distribution of the vaccine as a priority. As we learn more about the vaccine, and as we learn more specifically from communities and partners most impacted by COVID-19, this plan will evolve.”

Once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it is going to take a Herculean effort to get it to the public. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said health care workers will be a top priority for receiving the vaccine. Inslee was also asked about person exemptions as Washington recently limited vaccine exemptions for children who need the measles vaccine. Inslee said he thinks the rules for all vaccines should be the same.

In addition to health care workers, Washington's plan listed high-risk first responders, long-term care facility residents, and people with comorbidities as potential groups that could be among the first to receive a vaccine.

The interim plan states that in situations "given by the CDC" where vaccine supply is limited, the CDC estimates "Washington state will receive approximately 2% of total supply. This suggests vaccination coverage of between 150,000 and 450,000 people in the first two months of vaccine distribution. 

California and Oregon also released their vaccine plans this week.

Oregon wants to release the COVID-19 vaccine in stages. The first vaccines in Oregon could go to health care and essential workers, then at-risk populations like the elderly. As more vaccine doses become available, the state wants to emphasize disproportionately affected communities, including racial and ethnic minorities, tribal members, prisoners and the homeless.

California said it will not distribute a vaccine from the federal government until there's a green light from its own state experts. When asked whether Washington will do a similar thing, Inslee said the state is “considering the right way to have an independent review.”

“We're talking to some research facilities about that… it has not been determined exactly how or how to manage that process, but we will want to make sure that we have confidence, because we need a high enough percentage of people to take the vaccine to make it effective,” Inslee continued.

California's task force will include experts in epidemiology and infectious diseases.

No vaccine has yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the distribution program is contingent on that happening first.

Kaiser Permanente previously said it is seeing success with the Moderna vaccine and the trials being conducting in Seattle. The company said the vaccination is well-tolerated and gives a strong immune response in adults.

Federal health officials unveiled a plan last week to get approved coronavirus vaccines to nursing home residents free of cost, with the aid of two national pharmacy chains.

Under the plan, trained staff from CVS and Walgreens will deliver the vaccines to each nursing home and administer shots. Assisted-living facilities and residential group homes can also participate in the voluntary program. Nursing home staffers can be vaccinated too if they have not already received their shots. Needles, syringes and other necessary equipment will be included.