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Washington opens vaccine eligibility to next two tiers

Sally Avenson, a nurse working as a volunteer at a mass vaccination clinic at Seattle University, holds up a sign to indicate she needs more doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at her station, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

As of Wednesday, March 31, COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Washington state now includes those in Phase 1B, tiers 3 and 4.

Where to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in Washington state

Those tiers include: people 16 years or older with two or more co-morbidities or underlying conditions; all people 60 years and older; people, staff, and volunteers in certain congregate living settings, like correctional facilities, group homes for people with disabilities, and settings where people experiencing homelessness live or access services; and high-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings, restaurants, food services, construction and manufacturing.

WA hospital leaders: Not opening up vaccine eligibility could be fueling rise in cases

This expansion of COVID vaccine eligibility on Wednesday adds nearly two million more eligible Washingtonians. There were about three million eligible in the state before this most recent expansion. Anyone who was eligible in an earlier phase or tier remains eligible.

From this point, 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, though no official specifics have been set.

President Biden has ordered governors to declare all U.S. adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1. Some states are doing so weeks ahead of that date, and some have expanded the eligibility already, but Washington is unlikely to join those states on an earlier timeline.

“I doubt that we would advance that eligibility into early April,” Gov. Inslee said earlier in March.

Washington does expect to have every adult eligible on May 1 to meet the federal directive.

“Now in answering this question, it’s kind of a trick question because governors look great when they just say ‘everybody’s eligible for the vaccine,’” Inslee said. “But it’s one thing to be eligible for that vaccine and it’s another to actually be able to get it. So just because a governor says ‘I’ve opened this [to be] available to everybody,’ it doesn’t mean he or she has delivered it to people.”

“We want people to get vaccines, not just be eligible for them,” he added.

Washington solidifies vaccine roadmap ahead of open eligibility on May 1

Gov. Inslee did not entirely rule out the possibility for an earlier expansion, however, which he says could happen if the vaccination rate increases dramatically.

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