The number of people eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine is set to increase in King County, but the number of available doses has yet to keep pace.
That’s according to Jeff Duchin, King County’s public health officer, who held a press conference March 26. The county’s top doctor urged caution as the weather turns, vaccinations roll out, and people seek to return to a more normal spring.
“Until enough of us are vaccinated, it remains critical to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Duchin said.
Coronavirus cases are increasing in the county, reaching 282 positive cases on March 24, an increase from only two weeks ago, when numbers were declining. Duchin urged residents to remain vigilant — to wear masks, continue socially distancing if they and others have not received vaccinations, and to consider cancelling spring break travel plans.
For those who do travel during spring break, Duchin said the new strains of the virus, which are circulating in the U.S., pose a threat. If residents choose to travel, he advised they get tested for COVID-19 one to three days beforehand, and to avoid traveling if they receive a positive test. Upon returning, residents should get tested within three to five days or quarantine for 10 days.
Vaccines continue to be distributed in the county. As of March 26, more than 600,000 people in King County have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. There are currently three vaccines approved for use in the U.S. Two of them — the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — require two shots, while the Johnson and Johnson vaccine only requires one shot.
Every area of the county has surpassed the 70% vaccination benchmark for those 65 and older.
Countywide, and across age groups, a gap exists between people of color and white residents, with white residents receiving vaccines at a higher rate. The county is working to close the race and ethnicity gaps. High-volume sites in Auburn and Kent have delivered more than 151,000 doses, with nearly half of the clients at these sites identifying as people of color.
Duchin cautioned that there is an existing and growing gap between the number of available vaccines and people who want a shot.
As of March 31, the date when Gov. Jay Inslee said more people will be eligible to receive vaccines, some 430,000 additional residents are expected to become eligible for a shot. In total, some 1.2 million residents will be eligible. Only about half of these 1.2 million residents have already received a first dose.
The increased eligibility comes with no increase in actual doses coming into the county yet, although Duchin said he expects more vaccines will be available in April.
President Joe Biden said he’s pushing to make everyone in the country eligible to receive a vaccine my May.
However, supply remains limited, at least for the week of March 28. Duchin said they’re expecting to receive, at most, around 50,000 first doses countywide, including federally-supplied vaccines.
“We’re asking for everyone’s patience and understanding,” Duchin said.