Submitted by the Whatcom County Health Department

Phase 1B Tier 1 (Phase 1B1) of COVID-19 vaccination has begun, but unfortunately this doesn’t mean that all people in Phase 1B Tier 1 will be able to get their first shot right away. Anyone in Phase 1A or Phase 1B1 can get vaccinated now, but there is still a very limited supply of vaccine available. 

In our county, Phase 1B1 includes nearly 42,000 people aged 65 and older, plus anyone over 50 who lives in a multigenerational household. Vaccine providers are also still vaccinating 1A groups.

The move to Phase 1B1 has generated a lot of questions. Here are the answers to some of the ones we’re hearing the most.

How can I find out if I’m eligible to get vaccinated?

You can find out who is included in each of the vaccine distribution phases in this infographic from DOH. More detailed information is also available in the Washington State COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization Guidance and Interim Allocation Framework. You can also use  Phase Finder, a tool developed by DOH, to see if you meet current eligibility criteria. 

I’m in Phase 1B Tier 1, how can I get vaccinated?

If you are in Phase 1B Tier 1, keep in mind that your healthcare provider may not be offering vaccines to people eligible in Phase 1B yet. 

  • Check your healthcare provider’s website for updates about vaccine availability. 
  • Pay attention to email or text updates from your provider. 
  • When you do have an opportunity to make an appointment, sign up right away, and keep your appointment. 
  • Please be patient. Know that your provider is likely getting many calls from people with questions about vaccines. 

As our community begins to receive more vaccine, you will also be able to get vaccinated at local pharmacies or large-scale community vaccine clinics. These sites will be open to anyone, whether or not you have a healthcare provider or insurance.

We know that many people are eager to get the vaccine, and we know that you’ve been waiting for many months for the pandemic to be over. We’re urging everyone to have patience as we wait for vaccine supply to catch up with the demand for it. 

Vaccine allocation and distribution in Whatcom County

The supply of vaccine is currently very limited in our community. As of this week, only 10,000 vaccine doses have been allocated by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to vaccine providers in Whatcom County. That includes 1,000 doses expected to ship this week.

Shipments of doses to Whatcom County have varied from as little as 300 in a week to as much as 5,000. This unpredictability makes it very difficult to plan vaccine distribution locally. 

Why are other counties moving forward while we aren’t?

Anyone in Phase 1A or Phase 1B1 can be vaccinated now in Whatcom County. Many counties in Washington with smaller populations have received and been able to administer enough vaccine to cover all their Phase 1A workers. But that’s not the case in Whatcom County and many other large counties in Washington.

Continuing to focus on Phase 1A-eligible individuals does not mean that we haven’t “moved forward” in Whatcom.  It means that while our vaccine supply is still low, it’s still important that our neighbors who provide healthcare to us and our most vulnerable residents are protected.

Is COVID-19 vaccine delivery volume increasing?

Not that we know of at this time. The last two weeks have seen our lowest allocations (300 doses and 800 doses respectively), and today we learned that 1,000 more are due to ship this week. This number is not yet reflected in the Data Dashboard (see below for new information about vaccine data now available in the data dashboard). 

We expect that the Governor’s announcement on Monday, January 18 about new mass vaccination sites elsewhere in the state will affect how much vaccine we receive in Whatcom County. Since the total allocated to the state each week also fluctuates we do not know for certain how Whatcom County’s allocation will be impacted.

What COVID-19 vaccine data is available?

Vaccine data are now available on COVID-19 data dashboards for the state and county. This new addition shares the progress made in getting COVID-19 vaccine to people. While there have been challenges in how vaccine data has been reported by providers across the state, we are working with DOH to fix this so that the data for our county will be accurate. 

Here’s what the dashboard includes:

  • The number of doses administered in each county and statewide. “Doses administered” can include first or second doses. You can view this data in a map view or by date. 
  • Statewide data on:
    • The total number of doses delivered to vaccine providers.
    • The number of doses delivered through the federal long-term care program.
    • The percentage and number of people who have received at least one dose of vaccine.
    • The percent of our population who are fully vaccinated.

More information about the COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine planning, and vaccine safety can be found on the DOH’s COVID-19 vaccine web page at www.covidvaccinewa.org.

For information about the COVID-19 vaccination in Whatcom County visit our webpage at www.whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine 

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