Washington’s COVID vaccination timeline keeps speeding up. Gov. Jay Inslee announced that vaccine eligibility in the state will expand to all people 16 years of age and older starting April 15. This moves up his original target date of May 1 for a larger group of eligibility, which the governor set just a week ago, and will expand accessibility to 1.2 million more residents.
Inslee said he reversed course on the date based on a greater allotment of COVID vaccines in the coming weeks and also the efficiency with which the state has been able to administer doses thus far. But there’s been mounting pressure on Washington to accelerate the process overall, since more than a dozen states have already expanded eligibility to all adults, and many other states, such as California and New York, recently announced plans to do so in April. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan noted that Washington’s eligibility guidelines had become too confusing and was in favor of simplifying the process by making all those 16 years of age or older as soon as possible.
In his March 31 press conference, Inslee continued to defend the state’s methodical plan thus far, saying that placing priorities on higher risk groups for vaccinations helps save lives, since they are most vulnerable to severe disease. He warned that a recent uptick in COVID cases across the state, with the presence of contagious new variants, is of great concern. He issued a reminder that, even with vaccination efforts ramping up across Washington, basic precautionary measures, such as mask wearing, would serve to mitigate the damage done by any potential fourth wave.
Inslee’s announcement came the same day as a significant benchmark in vaccine eligibility. After many weeks of frustration, restaurant workers across Washington finally have the go-ahead to sign up for appointments. They are part of newly eligible groups, which includes people 60 years of age or older, correctional facilities, settings where people experiencing housing insecurity live, and those in construction and manufacturing. Setting April 15 for the expanded eligibility pool gives those groups a couple of more weeks to get inoculated before 1.2 million more people start searching for appointments.