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Washington to briefly divert focus toward second doses of vaccine

People stand near a sign as they wait in line to receive the first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, at a one-day vaccination clinic set up in an facility in Seattle and operated by Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington state’s vaccination efforts will be temporarily shifting its focus this week, giving priority to those receiving their second doses.

Vaccine appointment process a headache for Washingtonians

Statewide, vaccine providers requested a combined 170,000 doses for this week, despite the state’s normal weekly allocation sitting around 92,000. The Washington Department of Health believes this is largely driven by “the fact that some providers in Washington used doses of vaccine that were intended to complete the two dose vaccine series as the initial dose when vaccinating community members earlier in January.”

Because of that initial effort to prioritize first doses early on, that means there are more people in need of their second dose than were originally anticipated. That will have the state recalibrating by repurposing first doses to ensure that enough people can complete their two-dose series this week as scheduled.

The hope is to have prioritization shift back to normal gradually in the weeks ahead.

Where to get vaccinated in Washington state

“This focus on second dose administration is anticipated to be for this coming week and is anticipated to be less so for upcoming weeks,” the DOH said in a written release.

Snow — both in Washington and across the country — will also be delaying the CDC’s regularly scheduled vaccine delivery to the state until Tuesday. Between that delay and the need to briefly reprioritize vaccinations, the DOH is warning that appointments for first doses may be scarce this week, and that those who have already scheduled a first-dose appointment may be asked to reschedule.

“We are monitoring the distribution of doses closely and making adjustments as needed,” Secretary of Health Umair Shah said. “While the limited availability of first doses will be challenging this coming week, focusing on second doses will help pave the way for an improved and more sustainable allocation of vaccines in future weeks.”

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