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Washington solidifies vaccine roadmap ahead of open eligibility on May 1

Dr. Stephaun Wallace, who leads the global external relations strategies COVID-19 Prevention Network at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, receives his second injection from Dr. Tia Babu during the the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine phase 3 clinical trial at the UW Virology Research Clinic on Feb. 12, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

After confirming to KIRO Radio that Washington state will be opening up vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16 on May 1, the state Department of Health is working to solidify its roadmap ahead of that date.

A modest proposal to fix Washington’s confusing vaccine phases

Washington is currently in Phase 1B, Tier 2, of vaccine eligibility. That includes those who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at risk for severe illness, as well as critical workers in high-risk congregate settings like prisons, food processing, and transit, among others.

On March 31, the state will move into Phase 1B, Tiers 3 and 4, encompassing people over 16 with two or more co-morbidities, everyone age 60 and up, and staff and volunteers in congregate settings like group homes, homeless shelters, restaurants, food service, construction, and manufacturing.

Once the state reaches the next tiers, nearly 59% of Washington residents will be eligible for the vaccine.

From there, the state is hoping to break out its vaccine phases further in April to get more groups in the door before things open up on May 1. That will bring the state into Phase 2 of eligibility sometime next month, according to the Seattle Times. That will include people between 16 and 62 with at least one co-morbidity, and critical workers who are not able to work remotely.

Broken freezer sends hundreds to Seattle clinic for expiring vaccine doses

It’s unclear which industries will be included in Phase 2. That had Washington’s Society of Professional Journalists reaching out to the state in early March to ask whether frontline reporters and journalists will be eligible for the vaccine prior to May 1.

The DOH responded on March 16, stating that it expects it “will be able to progress through our current tier structure much quicker than we may have planned just weeks ago.” It went on to note that it plans to announce “new developments on these phase adjustments soon.”

That said, the state expects that after Phase 2 begins, almost 75% of all Washington residents will be eligible for the vaccine. After that, Phase 3 kicks off on May 1, expanding eligibility to all people ages 16 and up.

Phase 4 will mark the final stage of eligibility, opening it up to all people regardless of age. There’s no set timeline for when that phase will occur, with researchers still testing the relative safety of vaccinations for children and teenagers.

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