MYNORTHWEST BLOG

A modest proposal to fix Washington’s unbearably confusing vaccine phases

Mar 17, 2021, 9:36 AM | Updated: 10:58 am
Lumen Field, vaccine...
Patients sit in an observation (bottom) area after receiving the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during opening day of the Community Vaccination Site, a collaboration between the City of Seattle, First & Goal Inc., and Swedish Health Services at the Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle, Washington on March 13, 2021. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably looked at Washington’s roadmap for vaccine phases and wondered what cruel designer wove together the veritable labyrinth of phases, tiers, sub-tiers, and sub-tiers for those sub-tiers.

Broken freezer sends hundreds to Seattle clinic for expiring vaccine doses

As it stands right now, this is how the state is deciding who gets vaccinated when in Washington:

  • Phase 1A, Tier 1 (Dec. 2020 – present): High-risk health care workers and first responders
  • Phase 1A, Tier 2 (also Dec. 2020 – present): Long term care facility residents, other workers in health care settings
  • Phase 1B, Tier 1 (also, also Dec. 2020 to present): Everyone over the age of 65, over 50 in multi-generational households, school staff and educators, and child care providers
  • Phase 1B, Tier 2 (March 17): High risk workers in congregate settings, people over 16 who or pregnant or have a disability that puts them at risk for severe illness
  • Phase 1B, Tier 3, Part 1 (estimated April 12): People over the age of 50 with two or more co-morbidities or underlying conditions
  • Phase 1B, Tier 3, Part 2 (estimated April 26): People over the age of 16 with two or more co-morbidities or underlying conditions
  • Phase 1B, Tier 4 (also estimated April 26): People, staff, and volunteers in congregate living settings
  • Phases 2, 3, and 4: Coming soon

Pretty simple, right? All you have to do is figure out if you’re in Phase 1. If the answer is “yes,” then all you need to know is whether you’re in Phase 1A or Phase 1B. Once you do that, all that’s left is determining what tier of Phase 1A or Phase 1B you’re in, unless you’re in Phase 1B, Tier 3, in which case you need to know whether you’re in Part 1 or Part 2. Is your head spinning yet?

Now, before I continue, let me clarify that I have the utmost respect for the Washington State Department of Health and its team of doctors, modelers, researchers, and everything in between. Given that the state boasts some of the lowest rates of deaths and cases in the country over the course of the entire pandemic, I think it’s safe to say the department has done a stellar job given the hand it was dealt.

Where to get vaccinated in Washington state

And in some ways, I really can understand how these phases and tiers got out of hand quickly. That’s abundantly clear based on the reasoning the DOH gave me when I asked why they designed the vaccine roadmap the way they did:

The framework for DOH’s vaccine phases plan was created to include four phases of vaccine eligibility. It’s important vaccine is distributed in an equitable way to those who are at highest risk. As data was collected and the state learned more about COVID-19, the plan was expanded to include tiers inside the phases. This approach helped ensure we did not create countless phases, while still putting those most at risk in early tiers, such as long-term care residents, high-risk health care workers and first responders, people age 65 and older, and more.

Or put more simply, the state had its heart set on four phases, and a near-constant stream of new data caused them to subdivide, and subdivide, and subdivide, until eventually we were left with something that makes the Gordian knot look like a straight piece of rope.

But if the goal really was to avoid a complicated, ever-escalating system of vaccine phases, why do it this way? Why have four separate tiers for Phase 1B? Why have “Part 2” of Tier 3 of 1B open up on the same day as the next tier, when you could just group them together?

It’s hard not to feel like every single decision that led to one phase being divided into seven separate stages was made for the express purpose of making this process as complicated and convoluted as humanly possible. And that’s all without figuring for the fact that we haven’t even gotten to Phase 2 yet.

Given that, I have a simple proposal:

Vaccine phases

Six phases. That’s it. And yes, a couple sub-divisions because sometimes we will need to break out a phase into more than one stage — on that point, the DOH is correct. But there are better, simpler ways to mitigate against that without turning a single phase into a vaccine turducken.

If we get to “Phase 6” and we need an additional three stages like the DOH predicts we will, it’s still easy: Phase 6A, Phase 6B, Phase 6C. No additional sub-tiers, just on to the next letter until we’re finished putting doses in arms.

The end result is that we get exactly two more phases than the DOH originally planned for. Then that way, when someone asks you what phase you’re in, you won’t have to answer that question with a series of red yarn lines on a corkboard.

Questions, comments, or feedback? Follow Nick Bowman on Twitter at @NickNorthwest to weigh in, or reach him by email at [email protected]

MyNorthwest Blog

Seattle City Attorney race...
Nick Bowman

Newly-formed PAC with cast of familiar faces floods money into Seattle City Attorney race

A new PAC has already raised $280,000 in support of Seattle City Attorney candidate Ann Davison, with a cast of familiar faces working behind the scenes.
13 days ago
Seattle endorsements...
MyNorthwest Staff

Seattle election preview: Mayoral, city attorney candidates make their case

With Election Day just around the corner, we spoke to the Seattle mayoral and city attorney candidates for insight into each of their respective campaigns.
14 days ago
mayoral debates, seattle, mayor...
MyNorthwest Staff

Submit your questions for the Seattle Mayoral Debate

Lorena Gonzalez and Bruce Harrell will face off in two debates on Oct. 14 and Oct. What questions do you have for the candidates?
19 days ago
Seattle mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell...
Nick Bowman

Seattle mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell: City needs ‘sense of urgency’ to address homeless crisis

Seattle mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell lays out his plan to address Seattle's homeless crisis amid a hotly-contested election cycle.
20 days ago
Seattle City Council races...
Nick Bowman

Narratives for pair of Seattle council races paint dramatically different pictures

With election day less than a month away, the predominant narratives for both of Seattle's at-large council races are significantly different.
22 days ago
Seattle mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez...
Nick Bowman

Seattle mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez lays out plans for policing, homelessness, and income tax

Seattle mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez believes her more recent service in the city council gives her a leg up against her opponent, Bruce Harrell.
26 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
A modest proposal to fix Washington’s unbearably confusing vaccine phases