As Clark County’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts continue, staff and residents of Touchmark at Fairway Village recently received doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The assisted living facility in east Vancouver inoculated 278 caretakers and residents on Sunday and Monday, with another 150 independent residents set to receive the vaccine in about two weeks.
Residents Bob and Myrna Turbush, both 92, said they are extremely happy to be vaccinated.
“We’ve been receiving vaccines for everything for at least the last 30 years, and no matter what it is, we know vaccines will protect us, and we want to receive that protection,” Bob Turbush said.
Since PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center administered Clark County’s first COVID-19 vaccination on Dec. 16, the county has been methodically chipping away at vaccinating people.
Washington and Clark County remain in the first phase of the vaccine rollout, which includes workers in health care settings, first responders, and patients and staff at long-term care facilities, such as Touchmark.
As the county readies itself for Phase 1B, which includes people 70 and older and anyone 50 or older who lives in a multigenerational household, it is preparing plans to speed up vaccinations.
Dr. Steve Krager, deputy health officer for Clark County Public Health, said the county has requested state and federal resources for an incident management team that would help create a mass vaccine clinic as the county reaches Phase 1B, which will include vaccinating an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people.
That clinic would be at a site where large numbers of people could get vaccinated each day.
The county might also use the team to help start a mobile vaccine clinic, where it could visit large workplaces, such as a food-processing plant or school to vaccinate workers at those locations.
Krager said Public Health could hear back about federal resources as early as next week.
“If we get the resources, we would be able to stand it up pretty quickly,” Krager said of the mass clinic.
Vaccination process speeding up
Public Health data shows that Clark County has received more than 27,000 vaccine doses, 6,000 of which are the second and final booster dose.
According to data that is two weeks old, Clark County vaccinations lagged in the weeks after its first dose was administered. Only 5,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered as of two weeks ago.
“We realized pretty quickly that it was going too slowly with the current systems,” Krager said. “The volume that is going to be needed for Phase 1B, there’s no way the current system would be able to vaccinate enough people.”
Part of the reason why Clark County has outdated data for administered vaccinations is because the data is not easily collected; frequently updating the numbers would require shifting Public Health staff who are working on connecting people to vaccination opportunities.
“It’s important for us to know how much has been administered, but less people are going to be connected to a vaccine clinic if we do that,” Krager said.
The Washington Department of Health was expected to unveil a state and county vaccination dashboard this week, but as of press time Friday, the dashboard was not up and running.
That means Clark County’s actual number of administered vaccinations is higher than 5,000 doses. Krager said local health providers have become much quicker at vaccinating people, and that the process is running smoother.
Ryan Erlewine, director of pharmacy and clinical support services at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, agreed with Krager’s assessment.
He said Legacy Salmon Creek administered 400 doses of the vaccine on Thursday. Erlewine did not have the daily numbers on hand, but he said he’s “99.9 percent sure” that Thursday was the hospital’s largest daily throughput so far.
Legacy Salmon Creek has administered about 2,000 doses of the vaccine, about half of which have gone to people who are not hospital staff. Erlewine said about 55 percent of hospital staff have received a first dose of the vaccine and 22 percent of that 55 percent have received the second and final dose.
“We’re really trying to do this in an equitable way,” Erlewine said. “We want everyone to have access to the vaccine.”
Chastell Ely, a spokeswoman for Vancouver Clinic, said in an email that Vancouver Clinic has received 2,500 vaccine doses, with 1,100 arriving this week. Vancouver Clinic has inoculated around 1,450 clinic staff and other health care workers in the community.
PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center has administered at least 5,000 doses of the vaccine, according to spokesman Randy Querin. An unofficial count of the numbers provided by PeaceHealth Southwest, Legacy Salmon Creek and Vancouver Clinic shows that at least 8,400 doses have been administered in the county so far.
At the moment, vaccine demand for Phase 1A already exceeds the capacity of local health care providers, according to a Clark County Public Health news release Friday.
Public Health is getting several hundred requests per day for access to the vaccine and has received 3,000 just in the last week.
In order for Public Health to create sites for large-scale vaccination opportunities, the vaccine supply will need to be much greater than it is now. At this point, Clark County only has enough supply to do a fraction of the qualifying population for Phase 1B, Krager said.
Federal snafus plagued coronavirus testing early in the pandemic, and similar issues are appearing with the United States vaccine rollout. On Friday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Oregon is rolling back its expanded vaccination plan because the federal government is not going to give extra vaccine supply to the state.
Oregon had planned to expand vaccinations to people 65 and older, a recent recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without extra supply, the state can’t meet that demand anymore.
Vaccines make their way from the federal level to the state level to local facilities such as hospitals.
“The reliability of projections of doses from the federal government has not been great,” Krager said. “It makes planning a little more difficult. Those are challenges we are dealing with.”
Still, Krager is optimistic things will continue to smooth out and that Clark County will ramp up its vaccinations soon, as long as the supply is there. He said the county has contingency plans to have large-scale vaccinations, even if it doesn’t receive extra resources from the state and federal government.
“I understand people’s desire to get vaccinated, and we are working as hard as possible to make that a reality,” Krager said. “We have supply and logistical challenges that are difficult, but we are working to overcome them.”