As Vaccines Continue to Roll Out, County Warns of Worsening Glove, Potential Syringe Shortages

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Lewis County’s struggle to obtain gloves for health care workers has gotten worse in recent weeks, and a new concern was brought up this Wednesday over the county’s supply of syringes as hospitals continue to inoculate health care workers with the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Fortunately, Providence — spearheading the county’s efforts to distribute the vaccine to health care workers and first responders — hasn’t seen an impact. According to spokesperson Chris Thomas, Providence Centralia Hospital and St. Peter Hospital in Olympia have ample supply of syringes as they dole out Pfizer vaccines. This week, health care workers from 13 clinics got vaccinated in the county, and doses of the Moderna vaccine are rolling into the state as well. On Thursday, CEO Gaelon Spradley reported that Valley View Health Center is doing OK on needles too. If a shortage does arise, he expects the center to be able to “source them from other community providers.”

But Lewis County Emergency Management — which coordinates with the state to get supplies to hospitals and other entities — reported a shortage this week, and says the state isn’t able to supply them with more at the moment. Throughout the pandemic, Emergency Management has communicated with clinics and offered supply support when needed.

“It doesn’t do any good to have a vaccine if we can’t deliver it,” County Commissioner Gary Stamper said. 

In a county meeting Wednesday, Emergency Management Coordinator Fionna Velazquez said multiple counties have brought the issue to the state’s attention, but that the state isn’t able to ship syringes through their regular personal protective equipment (PPE) logistical orders. She said it’s unclear whether the shortage is due to the thousands of vaccines being distributed — but it doesn’t help that the vaccines shipped to hospitals come with six or more doses, but only five needles. 

While it means more supply to inoculate against the disease and stamp out the pandemic, it also means a gap in doses and syringes. 

News reports about the surprise dose this month were addressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency instructed providers to utilize the extra “sixth, or possibly even seventh” dose. 

“Whether a sixth dose is obtainable depends, in part, on the type of syringes and needles used to withdraw doses from the vials,” according to the FDA. 

In addition to the syringe concern, the county is facing a more immediate shortage of nitrile disposable gloves — preferred over vinyl gloves by many health care providers. Earlier this month, Arbor Health CEO Leianne Everett reported to county officials that as demand for testing — and need for hospitalization — increases, gloves and wipes had become “stressers.”

While Emergency Management Deputy Director Andy Caldwell said the county could help out with N-95 masks, he also noted a “pretty big pinch point” with gloves.  Since then, Velazquez said the shortage has only gotten worse.

“Masks are actually the one thing there’s no shortage of right now,” she said, noting that the county recently distributed approximately 125,000 N-95s. “They went to medical facilities, long-term care facilities, adult family homes.”

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