SEATTLE (AP) — Data from the Washington state Department of Health shows only a fraction of the more than 356,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine delivered here have been used.
The Seattle Times reports that less than 20% of the distribution — 59,491 doses — had been administered as of Wednesday morning.
The department’s immunization data reporting lags by about three days.
The health department estimates that about 500,000 people qualify for vaccination in the top priority group, named 1A, which includes high-risk workers in health care, first responders and residents of long-term care facilities.
To speed the pace of vaccination in some areas, the health department announced Wednesday that it was expanding the definition of the 1A category to allow extra vaccine to be distributed to health-care workers who are not on the front lines.
“We need to deliver vaccine as quickly as possible, and we have to get it to the right people as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s new health secretary. The new guidance benefits rural health-care organizations that were able to quickly administer the vaccine to high-risk staffers but still have some doses remaining.
Concern has grown nationally about the pace of vaccination. For all the money the federal government spent on vaccine development and distribution, investments in local and state public-health departments have lagged.
Washington state officials agreed that the pace of vaccination should improve over time.
“We don’t have a predictable delivery schedule from the CDC,” said Michele Roberts, the state Department of Health’s acting assistant secretary, speaking of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of last week’s Moderna shipment landed on the holiday weekend, Roberts said, which slowed administration.
“Logistics and timing — those are all things we’ll smooth out after the New Year,” Roberts said, adding that it took a tremendous amount of planning for local agencies and hospitals.
The health department this week expects to receive 57,500 more doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and 44,500 doses from Moderna.