In the county’s largest one-off COVID-19 vaccination event yet, public health officials will partner with Providence in a drive-through clinic at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds this Sunday. The hope is to vaccinate over 1,200 people, hopefully capturing the last of the 1A category and moving into the 1B phase.
“To vaccinate 1,200-plus people on Sunday, it’s going to be an exciting time,” Providence spokesman Chris Thomas said Thursday. The county worked last week to prepare the fairgrounds, and all appointments for the event have been claimed after a mass call to health care providers went out Wednesday.
“That email went out, I believe, at 8:30. And all the slots were filled by that afternoon,” he said. “So that shows the need.”
According to the state’s data dashboard, only 2,376 doses have been administered in Lewis County, with only 1.67% of residents having received their first dose. That’s compared to 3.74% of residents statewide. But the dashboard lags by several days, according to Public Health Director J.P. Anderson. According to Thomas, Providence alone has vaccinated 2400 1A residents so far, and hasn’t had to throw away a single dose.
Lewis County Public Health and Social Services is still receiving calls from residents, employers and health care workers looking to make an appointment to get vaccinated. But the limiting factor is still the number of doses given to the county and state. According to Thomas, Providence hasn’t had to waste a single dose. Providence will have given out virtually all the doses they’ve been allotted after Sunday’s event. That will be true countywide, Anderson said.
“I think that’s good for people to know, that although there are challenges around logistics — and really the last mile logistics — to get those clinics established and get the actual shot in the arm, our providers have been doing a really good job,” Anderson said. “And now with the fairgrounds ready to host, we do have the capacity to dramatically increase vaccine as that vaccine comes into our community.”
The county is taking on a supporting role, rather than a hands-on approach, to distribution. Anderson said public health officials will not compile any centralized list of eligible — or vaccinated — residents, and will leave much of coordination to health care providers.
“We just want to make sure we’re not the vaccine police,” he said.
And in that supporting role, it’s unclear how often the county will have to help set up mass vaccination events like Sunday’s. As of last week, a dozen health care providers were still waiting to be approved to receive and administer the vaccine. Even when that happens, it’s unclear how much capacity those smaller clinics will add to the county’s overall vaccination efforts.
“How many can they process that way? And to what extent will we have to support larger events to make sure we’re using all the vaccine that can be available for us,” Anderson said. “That’s going to be an ongoing conversation with our providers.”
The race to identify residents in the 1B category is slow-going, he said.
“It’s a little bit clunky right now. And I know there’s a lot of providers working to respond to all the messages they’ve received. But it’s going to work.”
More information on where eligible residents can get vaccinated can be found on the state Department of Health’s website.