Lincoln County left behind?
Department of Health concerned with state vaccination plan's local impact
Last updated 1/21/2021 at 4:25pm
DAVENPORT – Lincoln County Health Public Administrator Ed Dzedzy and other county health staff often receive calls from residents asking when they can receive the Moderna vaccine aimed at preventing COVID-19 infection. Giving those callers a clear answer is difficult, however, because the department now is not sure how many doses the county will receive from the state on a weekly basis until the Friday prior.
This has created a frustrating situation for Dzedzy and his staff, he shared with the Lincoln County Commissioners at the commissioner's meeting Jan. 19.
"Our biggest problem is vaccine availability," Dzedzy said.
Previously, the department had been promised 200 doses of the vaccine per week. While not enough to quickly get through all eligible Lincoln County residents who want the vaccination, the health department could still make a plan for county inoculation with a regular weekly allotment promise.
Then, the state announced it would be creating mass vaccination sites regionally in four locations next week: Wenatchee, Benton County, Clark County...and at the Spokane Arena. Gov. Jay Inslee's announcement that came Jan. 18 touted the plan as part of his goal to vaccinate 45,000 Washingtonians per day.
"This is a massive effort, and as noble as any cause will be in 2021: Because this is the year we choose to get vaccinated, Washington," Inslee said during a press conference Monday. "We are removing as many impediments as possible to Washingtonians getting vaccinated, we are going to deliver every dose that comes into our state. We will still be dependent on the federal government for doses, but we are doing everything we can once it gets here."
While the state's plan will create a central location in Northeast Washington for mass vaccination in Spokane County, Dzedzy has concerns for what that will do for vaccine allotment in Lincoln County.
"I fear what this will do for vaccinations in Lincoln County," Dzedzy said.
His concerns were founded in the fact that when the state began planning for mass regional vaccine locations, the Lincoln County Health Department no longer was promised 200 vaccine doses per week.
In fact, Dzedzy doesn't find out until the Friday prior how many doses the county will be receiving the following week.
"We are not given any information to plan a strategy to move forward," Dzedzy said. "It's a struggle trying to get through this initial process, without having vaccine week-to-week knowledge."
This week, the county received 100 doses. Dzedzy said the plan for those doses was to take them to Sprague, along with 10 doses the health department already had, Jan. 21 to give first shots to first responders and those older than 65.
Inslee's new plan adjusted Phase 1B of the state inoculation timeline to include those older than 65.
Dzedzy said the lack of information from the state is frustrating, because it makes his department seem as if it has no clear-cut mass vaccination plan.
"There is a mass vaccination plan, but plans are always having to be modified based on current conditions," he said.
Additionally, the lack of knowledge until the last minute creates an advertising hurdle, Dzedzy added in his update to the commissioners. Without prior knowledge of how many doses will arrive week-to-week, the health department struggles to call eligible populations and let them know that a vaccine is available to them, because they don't know whether they are sharing true information or not.
"We can't (tell callers) when you can get it, then the doses show up or don't," he shared.
The lack of state communication could rear its head this week. The health department has received 800 total doses of the Moderna vaccine so far. If Lincoln Hospital carries out its plan of disbursing 100 doses by the end of the week and 110 are vaccinated in Sprague, the county will be out of vaccine doses, without knowing how many, if any at all, are arriving next week, until Friday.
140 doses went to Odessa, while 400 have gone to Lincoln Hospital. The health department has given 240 shots themselves, not including the 110 doses scheduled to go to Sprague ,.
Theoretically, the unknown weekly dosage is not supposed to affect those lined up to receive their second shot. About 100 first responders and health workers are in line to get that second dose, which is needed 28 days after the initial dose.
"That's supposed to arrive automatically," Dzedzy said.
The health department is currently making calls to those eligible for the second dose to let them know it is time for their next shot.
The lack of weekly state communication and consistency in vaccine disbursement was also frustrating for the county commissioners.
"I wish the state would get us the vaccine and get out of our way," commissioner Scott Hutsell remarked.