Vaccine distribution is complicated. Especially when it’s a new vaccine and there is not enough to meet demand. Let's talk about how distribution works for the Spokane region.
To become a COVID-19 vaccine provider, a medical practice or organization must apply to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Once DOH receives the application, they review it to make sure they have a plan to properly store the vaccine and to use the vaccine according to all requirements and recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
Upon approval, when a provider’s office is ready to begin vaccinating patients, they fill out a DOH questionnaire requesting the number of doses that they anticipate they will use in the next week. DOH will then plan the doses based on the amount the state will receive from the federal supply. Currently, a COVID-19 Vaccine Provider’s office only knows how many doses they will receive for the following week.
Ultimately DOH is in charge of the allotments for our state. Once they confirm the amounts for the various providers, they submit the information to the CDC. The CDC then releases the doses from the maker of the vaccine to be sent directly to the provider’s office.
It’s easy to get confused on who is in what role throughout the process. SRHD is in the same category as a provider’s office. We help fill in gaps for populations that don’t always have access to a primary care provider. We also advocate for the other providers in the region by coordinating ideas and communicating to DOH on how the region can work together.
How does the mass vaccination site fit into all of this? Well, it will work alongside other local provider offices offering vaccinations. It is an easy, low-barrier location that people can get to if they don’t have a provider offering the vaccine. It is important to note that about 40% of the state’s doses are being redirected to the seven mass vaccination sites in Washington (the CHAS facilitated clinic at the Arena is one of them). That means that the other vaccine providers are not getting as many doses. Overall, there is currently not enough vaccine to immunize everybody in Washington. It is important to be patient and be kind as our community works through this together.
Finally, many people are concerned about getting the second dose since there is still a limited supply of vaccine. Most clinics are scheduling or offering a way to schedule your second dose at the time of your first dose. SRHD has been encouraging providers who are offering vaccine clinics to schedule a similar clinic four weeks later at the same location to make sure people can get the second dose as easily as possible. DOH holds back enough vaccine to provide for these second doses and then, prior to the provider’s events, they ship those doses to the site(s). If for any reason you are not able to get in during the recommended time for your second dose, the ACIP released guidance on Jan 6, states if you do not make it during the recommended time, there is no need to start the series over. You can go ahead and get the second dose when an appointment becomes available.
Watch Dr. Velazquez on this morning's Facebook Live broadcast (video below) where he explains the process.
For more and updated information about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the SRHD COVID-19 vaccination website.