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McMorris Rodgers ask Gov. Inslee to improve COVID vaccine rollout to help rural areas

“Rural areas are at a disadvantage when it comes to health care access and infrastructure," McMorris Rodgers wrote.
Credit: Courtesy
Cathy McMorris Rodgers

SPOKANE, Wash — Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent a letter to Governor Jay Inslee Monday asking him to make improvements to vaccine distribution in Eastern Washington.

“Rural areas are at a disadvantage when it comes to health care access and infrastructure. We have a shared commitment of working to help set these communities up for success,” McMorris Rodgers wrote in the letter. “I urge your administration to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccine distribution, and to continue to provide certain priority population tiering flexibilities, so that health care providers can expeditiously administer the vaccine and avoid wastage.”

During a Washington State Hospital Association press briefing Monday, Columbia County Health System CEO Shane McGuire said they’ve been frustrated with the supply of vaccine and it’s not keeping up with demand. His hospital is in the second least populated county in the state of Washington and the average age of their citizens is 50.

“The supply is just not there to meet the demand,” McGuire said. “I think pretty much every hospital can tell you that across the state that there maintains frustration around that.”

McGuire said his hospital received 100 doses last week but they could administer 400-450 a week if they had access to more supply.

McMorris Rodgers is leading Congressional efforts in overseeing vaccine distribution as the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Gov. Inslee's Office sent a statement Monday saying, "Our state’s vaccine distribution strategy is to reach Washingtonians in every community as quickly and equitably as possible. The Washington Department of Health communicates regularly with each local health jurisdiction to best meet their communities’ needs, given the shortage of vaccine supply we receive. We have similar goals as every community across our state, which is to get their populations vaccinated as soon as possible."

Deputy Communications Director Mike Faulk said the flexibility referred to by McMorris Rodgers is related to the state's seven day requirement for administering doses allocated. 

"This requirement has proven to work for Washingtonians, getting more shots in more arms in high-risk populations than in the weeks prior to its taking effect," he said. "Over the last few weeks we jumped from being in the bottom half for states for doses administered to as high as 14th yesterday."

Right now, Washington is vaccinating people in Phase 1A, which includes high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents, and people in the first tier of Phase 1B, which includes people over 65 and people over 50 in multigenerational households.