The news comes following an outcry over a shortage of vaccine shipments to Washington’s fifth most populous county
CLARK COUNTY — Clark County’s allotment of COVID-19 vaccine is going up. By a lot.
Clark County Public Health (CCPH) announced on Monday that it would receive 14,140 first doses of vaccine this week, along with nearly 8,800 second doses. That’s up from an average of 4,175 first doses per week through the first 11 weeks since the vaccines were approved.
“We’re thrilled to see the increase in COVID-19 vaccine allocation to Clark County this week,” said Clark County Board of Health Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien in a news release. “The additional vaccine will ensure more community members can be protected against COVID-19.”
Since the Clark County Fairgrounds mass vaccination site is still doing only second dose appointments this week, all of those first dose allocations will go to providers, clinics, and the CCPH teams set up to do mobile vaccination clinics.
Even with the added supply, the county currently has over 37,000 people on a waitlist hoping to get a call from their provider to schedule a first dose appointment.
Dr. Alan Melnick, the county’s public health officer and health director, said during a press conference shortly after the increase was announced that they’re hopeful this represents a permanent change from the state.
Last week, Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah got an earful from elected officials at the local, state, and federal level when analysis by CCPH showed Clark County was falling far short of most other counties when it came to the number of vaccines provided.
That led to a conversation with Shah and Michele Roberts, acting secretary for Prevention and Community Health on Saturday, and a promise that vaccine supplies to the area would increase.
What remained somewhat unclear on Monday were the actual reasons for the undersupply.
Shah and other Department of Health officials had said last week that providers in the area lacked cold storage for the Pfizer vaccine, but PeaceHealth Southwest responded that they had room for up to 126,000 doses in their ultra-cold storage, and had never come close to capacity.
Melnick said they were also told that DOH believed providers lacked the “throughput” to administer a high number of doses per day.
“Our providers have the capacity to easily give 2,000 or more doses of vaccine per day,” said Melnick. “They’ve been waiting and wanting to do this.”
The region was also the only one in the state to secure the services of a Type 1 Incident Management Team from FEMA, which helped to set up mobile vaccination clinics and work with community partners on preparing other mass vaccination sites around the tri-county area.
Melnick added that he’s hopeful the lines of dialogue with DOH will continue, and added that the state needs to do a better job when it comes to transparency around how decisions are being made on vaccine shipments.
“I think the public has a right to know, if you’ve got criteria for how the vaccine is going to be allocated, how does that really work in the real world?” said Melnick. “How does that translate into numbers? And I’m hoping that we have that moving forward.”
Clark County Public Health announced they will also be ramping up mobile vaccine clinics. Melnick said they would have teams visiting senior living facilities Monday and Tuesday offering the vaccine, and then re-visiting adult care homes to administer second doses later in the week.
The county also continues to work with local schools and other community partners to be ready when they get the green light to move to Phase 1B2, which includes all high-risk critical workers over age 50, including K-12 staff, agricultural workers, food processing, and grocery store employees.
“There’s a lot of planning going on, people looking at sites, particular school sites for example,” said Melnick, “where we would have a point of distribution set up.”
According to ESD 112, there are 80 school nurses in Clark County ready and able to help distribute vaccine doses. Those school sites, Melnick added, could be instrumental in reaching communities of color and other marginalized communities that often have difficulty getting to a clinic or a mass vaccination site for a shot.
Melnick said he was grateful for the support shown to the area by legislators, county officials, and even Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, along with numerous other community partners who’ve stepped up to help advocate for Clark County and Southwest Washington.
“COVID-19 is horrible and everything associated with it has been horrible,” he said, “but the way our partners have stepped up in the community is really gratifying. So that’s the best part of the work really.”
For more information about local COVID-19 vaccination efforts and to submit a request for COVID-19 vaccine, visit the Clark County Public Health COVID-19 vaccine webpage or call 888.225.4625. The Public Health call center operates 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.