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Next phase of Washington’s COVID vaccine prioritization released

Colleen DAmico (R), a clinical pharmacist with Seattle Indian Health Board (SIHB), administers a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, to Ryan Gilbert (L), Chief Operating Officer at the SIHB, on Dec. 21, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images).

While Washington state remains in Phase 1A of the COVID-19 vaccination effort at this time, health officials did announce the details of Phase 1B during a weekly update on the state’s response to the pandemic.

The first phase that started in December includes high-risk health care workers in health care settings, high-risk first responders, long-term care facility residents, and recently expanded to all other workers in health care settings.

Michele Roberts, acting assistant secretary with the Washington State Department of Health, specified that Phase 1B will have multiple tiers, the first of which includes all people 70 years of older, and people 50 years or older in multigenerational households. Tier B2 includes high-risk critical workers 50 years or older who work in certain congregate settings: agriculture; food processing; grocery stores; K-12 teachers and school staff; child care; corrections; prison, jails, or detention centers; public transit; fire; law enforcement.

View Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine phases

“Please hold off calling for an appointment until Phase 1B goes into effect,” Roberts asked of those in the next phase.

Roberts assured the start of the next phase will be widely announced, but for now the focus remains on Phase 1A. Tier B1 is not expected to start until later in January, with B2 set for February.

There will be a tool available to the public soon to let you know what phase is currently happening and when your phase is up. You can find out when it’s your turn at FindYourPhaseWA.org.

Tiers B3 and B4 in Phase 1 are outlined on the infographic from the state here, but future phases beyond that and information about who is eligible for Phases 2, 3, and 4 will be coming soon.

Dr. Umair Shah, the state Secretary of Health, also made clear that Washington is not yet moving to Phase 1B, but rather the information is being shared now to help people plan ahead. He says the state DOH has worked with the governor’s office on this framework, and gathered feedback from focus groups and surveys. The phases have been created with equity in mind, he added, and with a goal to protect those at highest risk of disease.

Shah says additional details about the vaccines is available at the DOH website.

The state, Shah says, is making progress with distributing vaccines. As of this morning, he reported that the state has received 522,550 doses of vaccine, including from Moderna and Pfizer. Since beginning Phase 1A in mid-December, Shah says 126,602 total doses have been administered, while noting that a lag in data could mean that number is actually even higher today.

The COVID vaccination effort involves “complex planning,” Shah says, and health officials are continuing to look for ways to speed up the process and identify areas for improvements.

Shah also commented on the governor’s new plan “Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery” released Tuesday, saying that it is just that, “our new roadmap to recovery.”

Healthy Washington will go into effect Jan. 11, 2021, and includes a “small resumption” of some activities statewide.

In contrast to the previous Safe Start program, this plan only has two phases to start. More phases will be added when COVID activity is knocked down, Gov. Inslee clarified. Healthy Washington will also be run by region, not by county.

Gov. Inslee unveils ‘Healthy Washington,’ a regional reopening plan

“But because disease activity has been so high during this third wave, we still need to see a dramatic decrease in transmission in order to move forward in reopening,” Dr. Shah said.

“As we work to get more people vaccinated, all of our efforts to prevent the spread of the virus remain critical,” Shah added, which includes washing your hands, wearing masks, and avoiding gatherings.

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