Second dose vaccinations focus of mass vaccination site this week

The focus for next week at the county’s mass vaccination site will be the delivery of second doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

County Incident Management Team Commander Leonard Johnson said the site’s staff and volunteers were administering second doses Thursday and had begun scheduling second doses for next week.

“The primary target for next week will be two days of second doses we need to get completed,” said Johnson. “If it works out that we are able to do a first dose clinic,” the people on the county reservation list who qualify will be contacted for an appointment.

There are 1,665 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine scheduled to be administered by the end of next week, said Maranatha Hay, county public health response communications manager.

“We are already prepared to make sure those doses are delivered,” said Johnson. He said the incident management team and county public health officer Dr. John Bausher “are very much in tune with insuring if we’re administering a first dose we are already planning the second dose.”

The vaccine supply chain is out of the direct control of the county, and even the state.

“We don’t control the chain of custody, even the state Department of Health doesn’t have firm control over it,” said Johnson. “They are reliant on the system above them to get it here.”

He added, “We’re trying to find pathways for the mass vaccination site to service as many people as possible, but that’s obviously allotment dependent.”

The county is in constant contact with the state about the county’s allotment. Hay said they usually find out on a Thursday or Friday what their allotment will be. Vaccines are usually delivered the following Monday and appointments are made for those who are in the proper tiers on the reservation list.

Vaccine allotment has had another challenge recently, with bad weather across the nation slowing shipments. The state Department of Health said Thursday that “Shipments of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were delayed this week due to severe winter weather,” and, “We expect that delays related to this historic weather event will continue through this week.”

Johnson said the county is dealing primarily in Pfizer vaccinations — they have appropriate storage for it at Grays Harbor Community Hospital — but also gets some Moderna vaccines.

Any vaccines delivered to the county need to be used quickly.

“When we receive an allotment, the state likes to see us use at least 90% of that allotment during a 7-day period. That is the benchmark we are trying to work on with,” said Johnson.

There are benchmarks as well, a certain percentage requirement, in the distribution of vaccines within the state’s vaccination phases that have to be met before anyone can move into the next phase, said Johnson. For now, the county is limited to vaccinating people in Phase 1a and 1B.

When vaccines are delivered the county has to quickly account for those vaccines and the phases they were used in to the state. “That is used in the planning process to decide whether to open the next tier,” said Johnson.

That can change too, depending on state guidelines. Johnson said if the state decides, based on statewide numbers, that vaccines can go toward people in the next tier, the county will move to those on the reservation list within Phase 2. This is similar to what happened when the state allowed for vaccines to go toward those in Phase 1, Tier 2 recently.

Whatever the phase, or the allotment, or any number of factors outside the county’s control, there is a large group of agencies, individuals, volunteers and staff with one goal in mind: Vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“We have a lot of hard-working staff,” said Johnson. “Our goal is to be efficient as possible.”

Staff in the county COVID call center got a boost recently with the go-ahead from county commissioners to hire up to four new temporary staff to handle the volume. Hay said some of the new staff were being rolled into their positions Thursday.

“We do have a waiting list, and it takes a lot of people to maintain that waiting list,” said Hay. “It takes a tremendous amount of effort and we could not do it without the hardworking staff.”

The partnerships are many: Johnson talked about fire districts and law enforcement, and the many volunteers who have signed up to work the site. Other partners include both hospitals, and the Port of Grays Harbor, on whose property the mass vaccination site is operated.

Some counties don’t have a vaccination registration system, or waiting list. Grays Harbor County does, and staff and volunteers to manage it.

“I would encourage everybody to register just once,” said Johnson. “You don’t have to constantly register in our system in Grays Harbor County. We maintain the list and you should expect that we will follow up with you.”

There is no need to follow up after you register; it overwhelms the call center and the system is set up so that, once you’re name comes up on the register and there is a vaccination ready for you, the county will contact you for your appointment.

Thursday, the state Department of Health reported that 12,322 total vaccination doses were administered in Grays Harbor County as of Feb. 15. Those numbers stated 13.4% of the county’s population had received a first dose, 3.29% the second dose.