The supply of Covid-19 vaccine allotted to Grays Harbor has slowed this week. The county’s mass-vaccination program, which administered more than 2,500 doses the previous two weeks, was scheduled to offer 400 on Thursday, its only day of operation this week.
Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma has received only 300 doses over the past three weeks and hospital CEO Josh Martin says rural areas are being shorted while the state diverts supply to more densely populated areas.
“It’s a rural issue in that we have received little to no allocation in the last few weeks,” Martin said. “The state has gone on record and said it’s a supply issue, however … a lot of our vaccine is being redistributed to other areas. We need to have a rural plan.”
Martin said Summit Pacific would be signing on to a letter from several rural hospitals protesting the state’s distribution plan.
In a news release late last week, the state Department of Health said it received less than a third of what it requested from the federal government for the week. More than 600 facilities in the state requested a combined 358,000 first doses of vaccine and the state’s allotment was only 107,125 doses, state health officials said.
Of those, the department said, 19% went to community health centers, federally qualified health centers, local health jurisdictions and private practitioners, 23% to hospitals, 36% to mass-vaccination sites, 19% to pharmacies, and 3% to tribes and Urban Indian Health Programs.
Setting up the vaccination intake process and staffing it at Summit Pacific has been a major expense, Martin said, with no guarantee that federal CARES Act funding will reimburse the hospital district.
“We hired multiple screeners, schedulers; we hired temporary staff and developed an intake process,” Martin said. “It’s a significant operational list, tens of thousands each week and if we have no vaccine … at this point we’re just doing what’s right for our community and we may have to eat those costs.”
The state-run mass-vaccination sites are set up in Spokane, Ridgefield (near Vancouver), Wenatchee and Kennewick. If the state thinks the scale of the large sites makes distribution more efficient, Martin said, that doesn’t take into account the inefficiencies of people in rural areas such as Grays Harbor driving or arranging other transportation for long distances to get the shots.
Grays Harbor mass vax site
Grays Harbor’s mass-vaccination site is set up in the Pasha automobile shipping facility at the Port of Grays Harbor and can handle 1,000 vaccinations a day.
This site has performed 2,587 first doses of the Pfizer vaccination since opening two weeks ago, Jan. 27. Next week will start the second dose clinic for the people vaccinated during the first week of mass vaccination. All second-dose appointments are being scheduled for Thursday, Feb.18.
If Grays Harbor County receives another allotment of first doses, an additional day will be scheduled next week for first-dose clinics, said Nicklaus Falley, information officer for the county’s COVID-19 Incident Management Team.
Community Hospital, Grays Harbor County Health Department and Summit Pacific all make allotment requests to the state. Community Hospital’s and the county’s request both go to the mass-vaccination site, using the Pfizer vaccine that requires special storage at very low temperatures.
This week’s allocation was lower than it has been, but Community Hospital spokesman Christopher Majors said he’s reasonably confident that between the two requests the county should continue to get one to two boxes of vaccine each week for first doses, along with what’s needed for second doses that are due. Each box has nearly 1,000 doses.
What you need to know
Appointments are required. Scheduling for Thursday’s clinic started Wednesday morning. Those getting shots Thursday were notified by email and those who didn’t have email were called, incident management officials said.
Appointments are made in the order in which vaccination intake forms were received by Grays Harbor County Public Health for those in phases 1A and 1B Tier 1, health officials said in a news release. To fill out one of the intake forms online go to healthygh.org.
A release from the incident management team offered this direction:
“We ask that you do not call to schedule an appointment — if you have submitted a form and are in one of the open phases, we will reach out to schedule you. Last week, our call center processed nearly 1,800 phone calls. So far, we have received over 14,000 intake forms.
“If you are unsure if you are on the list or would like to be removed from the list, we ask that you email email@example.com and allow a call center specialist to search the list on your behalf. Please remember to include your full name and phone number so we can look you up accordingly.
If you need help filling out the form or have more questions, please call or email the call center at 360-964-1850. We areThe call center is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.