Planning starts for mass vaccinations in county

County public health officials met Thursday with the two local hospitals to begin planning for a mass-vaccination site that would be used as vaccine is available to the wider public, county health officials said at a media briefing Friday.

“We committed to one another to work together in a unified manner,” said Hannah Cleverly with the county’s Covid-19 Incident Management Team.

Currently, per state guidelines, the available vaccine in Grays Harbor County is mostly going to first responders and people in the medical community — distributed by Grays Harbor Community Hospital and Summit Pacific Medical Center, but county officials hope to expand that soon. They don’t know exactly when that will be, but said they will spread the information in local media outlets when they have details and dates.

In the priority system the state has set up, local officials are in what is known as Phase 1A, for first responders and medical providers.

They expect to go into Phase 1B within a matter of days. That has four priority tiers:

(Tier 1) — All people 70 years and older and people 50 years and older who live in multigenerational households

(Tier 2) — High-risk critical workers 50 years and older who work in certain congregate settings: Agriculture; food processing; grocery stores; K-12 (teachers and school staff); childcare; corrections, prisons, jails or detention facilities (staff); public transit; fire; law enforcement

(Tier 3) — People 16 years or older with two or more co-morbidities or underlying conditions

(Tier 4) — High-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings under 50 years, people, staff and volunteers all ages in congregate living settings: Correctional facilities; group homes for people with disabilities; people experiencing homelessness that live in or access services in congregate settings

On Tuesday, the federal Centers for Disease Control issued guidance that opened some of the first wide-spread vaccinations to those over the age of 65, but the county is following the playbook for the state Department of Health, which uses 70 as the age for widespread vaccinations.

Cleverly said they are looking for a site that could handle up to 1,000 vaccinations a day.

At the briefing, health officials said the extent of the vaccinations will be dependent on the number of vaccine doses they get from the state and that is a big unknown right now. They have set aside some doses to serve as the second dose of the vaccinations already given, but will be watching closely to see if the state shipments take care of all the second doses needed.

Leonard Johnson from the Covid-19 Incident Management Team said some people eligible for the vaccinations have been turning them down. He didn’t have numbers available, but said the rate has been similar to what is being reported nationally.

The health officials said they can use more citizen volunteers to help in a number of ways, including answering phones and offering directions at testing and vaccination sites. When the mass-vaccination site is up and running, the need will be even greater, they said. Anyone interested in volunteering should call the health department resource center at 360 964-1850.