The timeline for vaccinations in Washington continues to come into further focus. Starting May 1, everyone 16 years of age or older can sign up for appointments, the state’s Department of Health (DOH) confirmed. This aligns with the recent directive from President Biden to make all adults eligible for vaccinations by May, and also comes not long after Gov. Jay Inslee expedited the timeline to vaccinate restaurant employees, critical workers, and other high-risk groups starting March 31.
The announcement may not come as much of a surprise. Inslee himself has said in previous press conferences that the state was on track to meet Biden’s May 1 deadline, with Washington’s vaccine efforts accelerating. But this is the first time the DOH officially confirmed the date to vaccinate all adults (May 1 hadn’t yet been displayed on the DOH’s timeline), and may put to rest speculation that the much wider pool of eligibility might occur before May.
During a March 25 press conference, Inslee addressed questions on whether the state would consider moving up the date at all. “If the dosage supply increases, or if we accelerate through these priority areas faster,” it could be a possibility, he said, noting that the state looks at the data on a daily basis. “But at the moment, we’re not making a change.”
More than 1 million Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated (around 13 percent of the state’s population), and more than 2.8 million doses have been administered overall. Washington is currently meeting its goal of vaccinating 50,000 people per day, and Inslee said that the strategy of prioritizing higher risk groups is showing dividends.
Next Wednesday, restaurant workers join the vaccine eligibility pool, which should come as a relief after a period of great frustration from the industry. Restaurants across the state are allowed to open for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, with other loosening restrictions. Up until this point, employees at restaurants have not been specifically included in any vaccine eligible groups. Starting March 31, they can sign up for appointments, and they’ll have about a four-week head start before the full adult population in Washington is allowed to join the queue.
But health officials remain concerned about the presence of more contagious COVID variants circulating in the state, as well as an uptick in cases over the past couple of weeks. Though certain key COVID metrics in general are trending down, the more the economy reopens, the more the case counts bear close watching.
It then becomes even more of an imperative to speed up vaccinations and, in that regard, there are some encouraging signs in Seattle. Lumen Field recently opened as a massive vaccination clinic, capable of administering more than 150,000 doses per week going at full throttle, and facilities in West Seattle and Rainier Beach recently switched from testing sites to vaccination sites to increase its capacity.
- Inslee Announces Restaurant Workers Can Start Getting Vaccinated Starting March 31 [ESEA]
- COVID Dashboard [Washington State Department of Health]