Inslee: Washington Increasing Access to Boosters, Vaccines Ahead of Omicron


OLYMPIA — With the omicron variant likely on its way to Washington and demand for boosters high, the state is working to increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. Jay Inslee said.

Inslee said the state saw a 75% increase in the number of people using the Department of Health vaccine locator in the past three days. But he warns it may take some time for everyone to get their dose.

"Demand for boosters has skyrocketed," he said.

California, Minnesota, Colorado and New York have all confirmed cases of the omicron variant.

The state is expecting to receive 80,000 doses from the federal government in the coming weeks. The federal government will also open a FEMA mobile clinic in south King County. It will serve about 300 people a day and be open to both children and adults who want to get their first dose or their booster.

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced plans to increase access to testing nationwide. He plans to do that by offering free at-home COVID-19 testing for Americans.

Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said the state will work to increase at-home testing capacity, but the supply doesn't exist yet.

Health officials won't know more about omicron for a few weeks, but Inslee said the state has adequate testing and genotyping capability to detect the variant when it arrives. Until then, the best way people can protect themselves is by getting vaccinated, Inslee said.

Shah urged everyone to get vaccinated and boosted "not just because of omicron." The state is still coming off its delta surge, and winter often brings other respiratory diseases.

With about 33% of residents not receiving any dose of the vaccine, Inslee said access to vaccines is not entirely the problem.

"It's the lack of people willing to get it," he said.

Here's a look at today's numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 159 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. There are 67 people hospitalized with the virus in Spokane.

One additional death from the virus was reported Thursday, bringing the total to 1,099.

The Panhandle Health District reported 119 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. It reported no additional deaths. There have been 717  deaths due to the virus.

There are 73 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.