The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s V-Safe tracks the state of health after a shot. (GeekWire photo)
They say the second vaccine for COVID-19 is rougher than the first – and we’re not just talking about the side effects.
As a newly double-vaccinated member of the 65-year-old set, I can vouch for the claim that the side effects are more noticeable the second time: at the end of January, my first Pfizer BioNTech shot gave me nothing more than a sore arm. The second shot that week gave me body ache the day after, as if I’d shoveled snow for hours. (I was … a few days ago.)
But that’s nothing compared to the headache I would have given myself if I tried to schedule a vaccination this week. I would have had a hard time making an appointment even if websites like WA COVID Vaccine Finder, Washington State Department of Health’s Vaccine Locator, and Washington State’s COVID-19 Vaccination Sign Up System would be useful.
Jeffrey Duchin, Public Health Commissioner – Seattle & King County, admitted it was a tough job for some people. “I wish we had more vaccines and vaccines for everyone,” he said during a press conference today.
Previously: A man’s search for the COVID-19 vaccine
“Severe winter storms across the country have delayed vaccine deliveries, and this has affected the vaccinations that are being held here in Washington state and in King County for both this week and the weekend,” he said.
Hundreds of second-shot appointments had to be postponed and first-shot appointments are few and far between. Community vaccination centers in Auburn and Kent, set up to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in South King County, will be closing this weekend. (For updates, see the Public Health – Seattle & King County website.)
I saw signs of a vaccine shortage when I went to the hospital for my second shot on Monday: the queue was almost non-existent, apparently because so many appointments had already been postponed.
That could change next week. Vaccine outlets are expected to receive a double dose of supplies as late deliveries are added to the regular allocation.
“There will be very limited options for first doses in the next two weeks,” said Duchin. “Most of the vaccine is used for second dose administration.”
Duchin said he wasn’t worried about being overwhelmed. “We’re not talking about a large amount of cans at first,” he said. “I think our experience of working with our vendors has shown that given the limited supply, they can give a lot more vaccines than they could.”
Despite the delays due to the weather, Duchin said he was encouraged by the process so far. “King Counties received over 400,000 doses, including about 65,000 in the last week,” he said.
Duchin said about 300,000 people, or one in six residents of the county, received at least one dose of vaccine. Approximately 119,000 people, or one in 16 residents in the county, are fully vaccinated.
“We’re also making progress in vaccinating older adults who are most susceptible to complications and deaths from COVID-19,” Duchin said. “Fifty-two percent of those over 75 have received at least one dose. That’s up 44% over the past week. “
Duchin said the comparable number for the 65- to 74-year-old age group is 46%, versus 40%.
GeekWire’s Alan Boyle examines his arm after a second COVID-19 vaccination at Overlake Hospital and Medical Center in Bellevue, Washington. (GeekWire Photo)
There are still signs of racial and ethnic inequalities. In the 65 and older category, Duchin listed vaccination rates of 50% for Alaskan Indians and natives and 45% for whites – but only 37% for Asians, 37% for Hispanics, and 25% for blacks.
District officials work with community groups to reach out to under-represented populations as well as homebound adults. “We now have a total of 17 mobile teams on site vaccinating high-risk populations across the county and reaching residents of adult family homes and affordable residential buildings with large senior populations,” said Duchin.
There is also reason for optimism at the national level when it comes to vaccine supplies. This week, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that vaccination rates could nearly double by the end of March as states resolve problems in their distribution systems.
Vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as possible is the key to avoiding a “fourth wave” of fatal COVID-19 infections. Fortunately, this winter’s third wave in Washington state is rapidly subsiding. “We are 80% back where we were in September, before the fall and winter rush,” said Duchin.
Health officials attribute this decline to closer adherence to mask wearing and social distancing after the season for holiday gatherings is over. Duchin said there was also “the potential for the virus to deplete certain social networks.”
However, Duchin also warned that the rise of new variants of the coronavirus will increase the urgency. “The proportion of cases due to the contagious variant B.1.1.7 continues to grow and this proportion doubles approximately every 10 days,” he said. “That means that sometime in March, most of the circulating SARS-CoV-2 virus will be the variant strain. … It would be reckless not to be more careful and effective in our preventive measures against a stronger virus. “
Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising even fully vaccinated people to keep wearing masks when going out, stay at least three feet away from anyone outside of your personal bladder, and continue to avoid large indoor gatherings. But Anthony Fauci, the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said in an MSNBC interview this week that the rules may be changed soon for people like me.
“When you are vaccinated and with someone who is vaccinated, the things you can do are much, much more liberal in the sense that you withdraw strict public health measures than when you are in society “, he said.
Fauci cited the example of a family member meeting with another, with neither living with the other, but both being vaccinated. “Can I actually be with you without a mask? Can I sit down and hug her and things like that? “He asked. “The answer is very likely, ‘Of course you can.'”
This is music for someone who is planning to get back with siblings for the first time in more than a year. Someone like me
In addition to online resources such as the WA COVID Vaccine Finder, the Washington State Department of Health’s Phase Finder, the Vaccine Locator, and the Washington State COVID-19 Vaccination Sign Up System, there are some hotlines for COVID-19 help:
- The Washington State COVID-19 hotline is 1-800-525-0127 or 1-888-856-5816 (then press #). It is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- The King County’s COVID-19 call center is 206-477-3977 and is open 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.