Department of Health warns mass vaccination plan will be a slow ramp-up

Appointment slots for Clark County Fairgrounds site already full for this week

Even before the COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Clark County Fairgrounds was officially announced, all of the appointment slots for this week had been filled.

Eagle-eyed Internet users spotted the Ridgefield location on the Department of Health (DOH) website Sunday, with a link to sign up for one of the few initial spots. By Sunday afternoon, most people clicking on the appointment link found no dates available.

“Washingtonians should not be discouraged,” DOH said in a press release Monday morning. “Sites will eventually have the capacity for larger numbers of people as more vaccine becomes available.”

The Clark County Fairgrounds will be the site of a mass vaccination clinic for SW Washington, but initial appointments will be hard to come by. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Clark County Fairgrounds will be the site of a mass vaccination clinic for SW Washington, but initial appointments will be hard to come by. Photo by Mike Schultz

DOH said the initial goal is to be able to provide approximately 500 vaccinations per site, per day, but the initial amount will be less, “as sites ramp up to that goal and beyond.”

Clark County’s mass vaccination site will be using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which will arrive today and take time to thaw, which is why the site won’t start putting doses in arms until tomorrow.

“As our vaccine allocations increase, these sites will provide additional capacity to get people vaccinated quickly and efficiently across the state,” said Washington Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, MD. “With much less supply of vaccine than people currently eligible, it is going to take time which will require patience from all of us. I want to thank our partners who are working together to help us build the infrastructure needed to reach our goal of 45,000 vaccinations a day.”

On Sunday, Clark County Public Health noted that their plans, in cooperation with health departments in Cowlitz and Skamania counties, as well as a Federal Emergency Management Administration Type 1 incident management team, are still working on plans for more community vaccination sites and mobile vaccine clinics.

So far, over 18,000 people have registered on the county’s website to be notified when they can receive a vaccine dose from a local healthcare provider, including PeaceHealth Southwest, Legacy Salmon Creek, The Vancouver Clinic, and Sea Mar Community Health Centers. 

As of Monday morning, Sea Mar, which is accepting walk-in vaccinations until 3 p.m. each day, said they had used all available vaccines until more arrive later this week.

Clark County Public Health is encouraging people who qualify to receive a vaccine to register both on their website, as well as continuing to check for any available appointments through the state’s system.

Currently, the state is in Phase 1B, Tier 1, which includes frontline healthcare workers, many first responders, as well as anyone over age 65, or 50 and older for people living in multigenerational households.

If you’re uncertain whether you qualify, the state’s Phase Finder page can help, though that site currently does not allow you to sign up to be notified when you can receive a vaccine.

Most area hospitals are urging you to use one of those website, rather than calling or showing up to see if the vaccine is available. For the moment, nearly all providers are administering vaccinations by prior appointment only.