A shortage of coronavirus vaccines in King County is slowing efforts to achieve herd immunity, which would greatly slow the spread of COVID-19. But health officials received good news on Friday about the availability of the new one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which may help vaccinate the more than 100,000 seniors awaiting doses more quickly.
The county thought it might have to wait at least three weeks to access the J&J vaccine. Instead, it can receive doses faster. Health officials awaiting confirmation from the State Department of Health (DOH) should have more information early next week, public health spokesman James Apa of Seattle and King County said Friday.
During a virtual town hall that was livestreamed on King County Public Health̵
At present, no vaccine has been approved for persons under 16 years of age.
As of March 1, 341,532 residents of King County have received at least one dose, and 198,503 people have been fully vaccinated according to public health. Only 51.2% of those aged 75 and over in the West Seattle, South Seattle, Delridge and Highline neighborhoods have received at least one dose, making them among the least likely to be vaccinated in King County.
Black and Latino residents of King County aged 65 and older are least likely in their age group to be vaccinated, with 34.6% of black elderly and 45.4% Latinos receiving a dose. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 65 years and older are most likely to receive a dose of 64.7% followed by 59.2% of Indians. For Asian Americans, 48.1% of those age 65 and older have received a dose, while 50.3% of white people have it, the health department said.
Black residents were also the least likely population to receive at least one dose in the age group of 75 and older. Black, Latino, Native American and Pacific islanders are hardest hit by the pandemic and have the highest levels of hospitalization and comorbidity.
Vaccine shortages have greatly affected the state, and Hayes said she does not expect a drastic increase in doses in King County until April.
“This is part of the challenge of adding school staff and childcare,” Hayes said. “We still have 116,000 people 65 years and older in the county in category 1B-1 to be vaccinated.”
Public Health uses the data to partner with community-based organizations and churches to provide outreach and education to reach those most vulnerable to the disease.
King County uses mobile teams that visit adult family homes to administer the vaccine, and public health hired community navigators to help translate for people in their community and provide outreach and education.
Currently, there are up to 391 providers across King County who have registered to administer vaccinations with the state of DOH, but only 24 of these clinics received doses last week.
In response to a viewer question about people skipping the line when they are not in the eligible phase, Hayes said the state operates on a trust-based system. While approx. 10% of King County residents are vaccinated elsewhere, the county also vaccinates people outside the county. “I hope it’s a kind of wash with in and out, but it’s hard to track it down,” Hayes said.
Major providers in King County have accepted public health equity principles, meaning they do not allow unqualified individuals to receive doses. Yet there is no way to prevent deception. For example, the state will not require teachers to show ID proving they work in a school.
“I think this will be less of a problem when we get more vaccine out there and when the governor opens it a little wider. It’s very frustrating for people right now because there are so few doses, ”Hayes said.