By Grace McCarthy
Governor Jay Inslee has announced that all adults in Washington would be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccination starting Thursday, April 15.
The governor’s office said in a March 31 statement that eligibility expansion is partly driven by the recent increase in Covid-19 cases statewide.
“We must do everything possible to ensure that we can keep cases down,” Inslee said during a media conference. “We have concerns about the trends we are seeing across the state and we must be cautious. Opening up full eligibility will be one tool to help in the fight against the virus.”
The state is currently vaccinating people up to tiers 3-4 in Phase 1b. This means people 16 or older with two or more underlying conditions, those 60 years and older, people working or living in congregate living facilities, high-risk essential workers, K-12 educators and childcare providers, pregnant women, people 50 years and older living in multigenerational households and healthcare workers, according to the health department.
Following Inslee’s announcement, President Joe Biden said April 6 that all adults in the U.S. would be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, April 19. The previous date for all people in the U.S. eligible for the vaccine – those 16 years old and up – was May 1.
A spokesperson for the Whatcom County Health Department said in an email to The Northern Light that vaccine providers in the county have the capacity to administer 20,000 vaccine doses weekly, but the supply is not yet meeting the capacity. The estimated 20,000 doses does not include chain pharmacies, which receive vaccines through a federal pipeline and not the state Department of Health (DOH), so the capacity is likely higher, the health department said.
Preliminary health department data shows 6,840 vaccine doses were expected to arrive in Whatcom County for the week of April 4, although this number is likely to increase because it doesn’t include vaccines given to chain pharmacies. The county received 10,180 vaccine doses the previous week.
The health department said vaccine supply is becoming more consistent as it has increased in recent weeks.
So far, 20.1 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated and 31.3 percent have received at least one shot of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson and Johnson, according to the department. (The Johnson and Johnson vaccine only requires one shot to be fully effective.) The department reports that 45,290 county residents are fully vaccinated and 70,573 residents have received their first shot.
Statewide, 3,722,703 vaccine doses have been administered. About 19.5 percent of people in Washington are fully vaccinated and 30.7 percent have received one dose.
As of April 5, Whatcom County has had a total of 7,416 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic and 249 probable cases (7,665 total cases), according to DOH data. There was one death in the past week, making the number of deaths 88; the percent of deaths per total confirmed cases is 1.1 percent.
In Whatcom County, there have been 19 reported ‘breakthrough cases’ – or cases where fully vaccinated people have tested positive for Covid-19, the health department said on April 7. DOH reported 102 breakthrough cases have been reported in Washington since February 1, but said in a March 30 media release that breakthrough cases are common in all vaccines as they are not 100 percent effective. Most symptoms have been mild in the state, although eight hospitalizations and two deaths are being reported, DOH said. Both deaths involved people over the age of 80.
The county health department said in an email that no one with breakthrough cases in Whatcom County has been hospitalized or died from a breakthrough case. “For context, those breakthrough cases represent less than 0.027 percent of the people in Whatcom County who have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine,” a spokesperson for the health department said.
Four school districts increased in case rates this week – Bellingham, Meridian, Nooksack and Mount Baker. All of the school districts with increasing rates, except Meridian, also increased the week before. Nooksack Valley school district had the highest rate of new cases with 253 confirmed cases per 100,000 people followed by Lynden (208), Mount Baker (152), Bellingham (131), Meridian (111), Ferndale (105) and Blaine (51).
For more Whatcom County information, visit whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine and whatcomcounty.us/coviddata. State information is available at bit.ly/3r2URJj. Vaccine locations can be found at bit.ly/3nZiMqr. For CDC data, visit bit.ly/39Kt4qh.