Coronavirus, Public Health

King County effort aims to get more people vaccinated against COVID, faster

Electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19
SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. Image: NIAID.

King County has allocated $7 million to create community vaccination sites and mobile teams so that as many residents as possible will be quickly vaccinated, County Executive Dow Constantine announced Friday.

The sites will serve people at highest risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 first and eventually be open to all members of the public as more vaccine supplies become available.  

To contain COVID-19 and fully re-open the region, Public Health — Seattle & King County estimates that it will be necessary to vaccinate at least 70 percent of all adults, or approximately 1.26 million people.

In addition to accelerating the vaccination process, the goal of the initiative is to ensure that access to the vaccines is equitable, Constantine said. These sites will be particularly important for individuals who are not connected to the health care system, who work multiple jobs or face barriers to accessing health care such as availability during regular business hours, he said.

“King County will step up and organize community vaccination centers and mobile teams to make sure we hit the ground running as more and more people become eligible to receive doses,” said Executive Constantine.

“To get this pandemic under control, 16,000 adults must be vaccinated every day for six months,” Constantine continued. “That’s why we need everyone behind this effort. We are moving ahead now despite the lack of clarity on supply chain or federal funding allocation because every day delayed impacts the lives of our residents, the strength of our community, and the vitality of our businesses.”

Although many of the nearly 300,000 people over age 70 in King County will access vaccine through their primary care provider or a local pharmacy, these strategies alone will not be sufficient to quickly and efficiently reach everyone in this group, officials said.

The $7 million will be used to create two vaccination centers, likely in South King County. In addition, five mobile strike teams will form to reach those who are not able to visit a healthcare provider or vaccination center.

These teams will be particularly helpful in vaccinating members of long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, senior centers, and other areas housing vulnerable populations.

King County hopes to be reimbursed by the state and federal governments for these costs but will not wait for final inter-governmental negotiations before moving ahead.  

Vaccines for high-risk health care personnel and staff and residents in long-term care facilities, designated as phase “1A” by state officials, kicked off on Dec. 17.