Vaccine eligibility expands to all over age 16 soon
Jim Scolman photo
People waited in a long line on Friday, Jan. 15 to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at the pop-up site at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced this afternoon that on April 15, COVID-19 vaccines will be made available to every Washingtonian over age 16.
"We are confident because our doses have increased," Inslee said.
Even so, with infection trends rising, the governor emphasized to continue wearing masks and being careful. Snohomish County, for one, has seen an uptick in new infections after weeks of declines.
State officials are greatly concerned that 28 percent of people age 65 and older have not yet received a vaccine — about 330,000 people. "These are folks who are more exposed than they were a few weeks ago to this virus," Inslee said.
The governor encouraged the public to discuss vaccines with people they know in the senior population.
Dr. Umair Shah, who leads the state Department of Health, also encouraged people to have these discussions. The COVID-19 hotline has scheduled over 25,000 appointments. 1-800-525-0127 is the number. It's in multiple languages, too.
"While we're pleased to open up ... we also recognize vaccine supply is a challenge for all of us, and we're working with the federal government" on this, Shah said.
Today, Wednesday, March 31, the state opened up vaccine eligibility to all people aged 60 to 64, as well as people of all ages who work in restaurants, construction, manufacturing and certain other industries.
More than 3.3 million people in Washington have received doses. The state is now administering doses at a clip of 54,000 doses a day.
"We've made tremendous progress, but we have to realize this pandemic isn't over until it's over," Shah said. He said the uptick in cases is another reason for cautioning against getting together unmasked for Spring Break or for March Madness, in which the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs men's basketball team has made the Final Four.
People who are all fully vaccinated can gather together if everybody is known to be fully vaccinated, from federal advice released earlier in March. This includes indoor settings. Fully vaccinated means all regimens of shots have been given. However, masks are still needed around unvaccinated individuals, and are mandatory in public settings regardless of vaccination status.
The state is still among the top 10 states in fewest confirmed COVID-19 deaths per capita.
A new vaccine locator website launched recently. It is https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/
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