WA Sec of Health: COVID will be here a ‘long time’ without enough immunity

May 27, 2021, 3:17 PM
People waiting in line inside Lumen Field's mass vaccination site. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

With 60% of Washingtonians 16 and older now having had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and about half of the state’s adults being fully-vaccinated, can we start envisioning a COVID-free future?

That depends.

While the goal is to get 70% of those 16 and up vaccinated, state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah says he doesn’t know what the magic number will be for herd immunity.

“We do not know what a percentage will truly be that’s going to allow us to once and for all get through this pandemic and push COVID completely into the ground, and be done with it, and put our victory flag up and say, ‘We beat this virus,'” Shah said during the Washington State Department of Health’s weekly briefing on Wednesday.

WA Dept. of Health says no evidence rare heart problem caused by vaccine

Shah is confident, however, that whether or not COVID-19 is here to stay hinges on whether or not people continue to get vaccinated.

“The truth is, if that does not happen, … unfortunately we’re going to be with COVID-19 for a long time coming,” he said. “Now the question is, how severe will it be? Or will it just be that we’ll have clusters and outbreaks every so often in certain settings that will be something that we’ll have to be dealing with?”

State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said that unlike the flu, COVID-19 will likely not come back seasonally, but rather always be present.

“Flu tends to be seasonal every year, and COVID has been with us over a year, so it’s not acting like a seasonal respiratory virus,” he said.

Shah worries we could see a disparity where some more privileged zip codes with higher vaccination rates would be more immune to COVID-19, while other under-served communities with lower vaccination numbers would still deal with periodic outbreaks.

A look at King County’s vaccination map shows vast differences in vaccine numbers depending on what area of the county you’re in. And across the state, counties range from 70% of people having had one dose in San Juan County, to just 23% of people in Eastern Washington’s Stevens County.

“We do want to make sure that this is not a tale of two societies, where we have people who are vaccinated and protected going about their business, and those who are not vaccinated, not protected, and unfortunately getting sick,” Shah said.

The key is to keep moving forward with vaccination, Shah said, noting that he and his colleagues are focusing on bringing the vaccine to those under-privileged communities through strategies such as mobile clinics and pop-up clinics.

While the state inches closer every day to that goal of 70% vaccination, Shah said the last 10% will prove the toughest, as vaccine hesitancy has slowed demand.

“This road ahead of us — the last mile, if you will — is incredibly difficult, and it’s also going to require a change and augmentation of our effort,” he said. “What we have done previously and what we are doing now means that we have to do everything we can to work together in order to be able to vaccinate.”

Local News

homeless camp...
Andrew Scheinthal, KIRO 7 News

Seattle business attempts to clear homeless camp, backtracks after advocates step in

A Seattle business is facing heat from homeless advocacy groups after they attempted to clear out an encampment off of Lake City Way.
16 hours ago
COVID, hospitals...
Nick Bowman

‘Tough few weeks ahead’ as state’s hospitals continue to struggle with flood of COVID patients

While Washington's COVID crisis has begun to stabilize in recent weeks, health officials warn that the state's hospitals are not quite out of the woods yet. 
2 days ago
Eatonville COVID outbreak...
MyNorthwest Staff

Eatonville school goes back to virtual learning over COVID outbreak

Eatonville Middle School sent students home on Friday, and will be temporarily moving back to virtual learning until at least mid-October. 
2 days ago
Amazon Bothell...
Dalton Day

Permits indicate Amazon is behind planned new warehouse in Bothell, despite denial from county

Plans for a 105,000-square-foot warehouse in Bothell named as a “fulfillment center" suggest Amazon is behind the project.
2 days ago
Employment Security, audit reports, unemployment tax, unemployment suspect...
Nick Bowman

Former state unemployment worker arrested, charged for alleged role in payment scheme

A former ESD employee was arrested and charged on Friday, for allegedly defrauding the state out of thousands in unemployment payments.
2 days ago
monoclonal antibody treatment...
Nicole Jennings

Washington hospitals lacking in monoclonal antibody treatment

Hospitals throughout Washington are desperately in need of more monoclonal antibody treatment — but at the moment, it’s in short supply. Monoclonal antibody treatment is given to certain high-risk COVID patients through IV or injection as soon as possible after a diagnosis to prevent severe COVID symptoms. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “monoclonal […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

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.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
By Alaska Airlines

Calling all football fans: follow Russell on the road

Take your Northwest spirit that we’re known for on the road this season with Alaska Airlines.
By Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
WA Sec of Health: COVID will be here a ‘long time’ without enough immunity