This week, Washington State Department of Health announced that individuals in Phase 1B Tier 1 are now eligible to be vaccinated. This opens up vaccinations to people 65 and older, and people who are 50 and older who live in multigenerational households. Due to limited vaccine supply, Whatcom County continues to emphasize vaccination of individuals in Phase 1A Tiers 1 and 2 who are on the front lines of our healthcare system. Here’s what you need to know.
Where are we in our vaccination efforts?
Some counties in Washington with smaller populations have been able to complete vaccinations of their Phase 1A groups and are ready to move onto Phase 1B. That is not the case here in Whatcom County, and we continue to emphasize the need to vaccinate Phase 1A individuals.
Right now, the demand for vaccines in Whatcom County exceeds the supply. There are many people in 1A who still need to be vaccinated, and as of last week, there has only been enough vaccine shipped to Whatcom County to vaccinate about 50-60% of the top priority Phase 1A workers. See our vaccine update from January 14 to learn more.
Only about one-third of the pharmacies and healthcare providers in Whatcom County who have chosen to become COVID-19 vaccine providers have been fully enrolled in the state’s vaccine program. There are still over 30 vaccine providers who have started the enrollment process but have not yet been approved by DOH. That means that right now, they are unable to receive or administer vaccines.
Until we begin to receive more vaccine and have many more providers enrolled to administer vaccines, vaccination will continue to be limited in our county. That means we need to be patient for just a while longer as we start to open things up, and get more people this life-saving vaccine.
What This Means for Businesses
If you have employees who fall into Phase 1B Tier 1, encourage them to check their healthcare provider’s website for more information about whether vaccine doses are available and plans for vaccination. Make a plan with your employees to ensure coverage if they need time off to receive the vaccine.
Later Tiers of Phase 1B include a broader range of critical workers in high risk settings. As an employer, here are some steps you can take to plan for getting your employees vaccinated:
Determine if your employees fall into Phase 1B Tier 1 and assess staff roles to prioritize employees with the highest risk of exposure.
Communicate with your staff to determine who wants to be vaccinated.
Consider how to rotate your staff who are getting vaccinated in a manner that will not leave you short-staffed if any of them experience any side effects from the vaccine.
For planning purposes, remember a second dose of the vaccine is needed 21-28 days after the first dose.
Engage in planning with your employee health provider about access to vaccines for your employees.
For more information about the guidance for Phase 1A and B, read this summary or check out this infographic.
No matter where you or your employees land on the vaccine prioritization timetable, the goal is to get you vaccinated as soon as possible. We’re working as fast as we can to get the vaccine to you. When it’s time to get vaccinated, sign up right away, and keep your appointment!
While you are waiting for the vaccine, you can still do the three W’s: Wear a Mask, Wash your Hands, Watch your distance. In fact, we need you to do these three things in order to get through this as safely as we can.
Information about vaccines is changing quickly and we strive to provide the most reliable and accurate update in a timely way. You can expect more updates from us and from the Washington State Department of Health as soon as we are able to provide solid information for you.
For the most up-to-date information, check our website frequently and sign up for email updates for the latest details. Select Health - Vaccine Updates for Businesses to subscribe to email updates with the latest information.