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Washington COVID-19 shots lag demand, as eligibility expands to all 16 and older

COVID-19 vaccine supply remains at a slow increase over the next few weeks despite a flood of 1.5 million newly eligible people in Washington state.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Anyone 16 and older in Washington state is eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting Thursday, but experts warn people will likely still need to wait for an available appointment.

"Just because you're eligible [Thursday] doesn't mean there's a spot open for you tomorrow," said Sharla, a founder of the Facebook group "Find a COVID Shot WA" who asked us not to share her last name.

Sharla said the group includes 75 volunteers who have helped people access more than 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

Sharla said Thursday's eligibility expansion feels like a celebration.

"It feels like we're about to get to the Super Bowl," she said.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said more than 1.5 million additional people will become eligible in the state Thursday.

"We ask that people please be patient and know that while you may not get the vaccine today, you will get it soon," said the DOH.

RELATED: What Washington parents should know about COVID-19 vaccines for 16- and 17-year-olds

Numbers show supply is increasing, but are not yet enough vaccines to meet the demand. 

The DOH reports this is the breakdown of vaccines for the next few weeks: 

  • Week of April 18: 364,700 total doses (191,680 first doses, 173,020-second doses)
    • This includes 210,600 doses of Pfizer and 154,100 doses of Moderna
  • Week of April 25: 370,340 total doses (191,680 first doses, 178,660-second doses)
    • This includes 212,940 doses of Pfizer and 157,400 doses of Moderna
  • Week of May 2: 377,360 total doses (191,680 first doses, 185,680-second doses)
    • This includes 219,960 doses of Pfizer and 157,400 doses of Moderna

Sharla said some people who are considered high risk are still searching for an appointment. However, she supports expanding eligibility. 

"We're not seeing a ton of panic at this point," said Sharla. "The reality is, doses are going up that are available. Vaccine availability is going up. The sites are getting better at releasing them in an equitable way." 

"Find a COVID Shot WA" matches people with volunteers and prioritizes finding appointments for high-risk individuals, but the same volunteers will post links to alert group members when vaccine appointments become available. The group also has a helpline taking calls at 425-780-5785. 

Sharla said aside from being patient, her number one piece of advice to people looking for an appointment is to try different devices if a site doesn't work. For example, if a cellphone isn't working, try going to the same site on a computer. Sharla said people often try to open sites that aren't compatible with the device they're using.