SEATTLE — It's expected that there will be enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine available in Washington state by the end of December to vaccinate about 400,000 people, according to state Department of Health officials.
Washington state will be getting about 62,400 doses of Pfizer’s novel coronavirus vaccine by Dec. 15, and a total of 222,000 doses by the end of December, state Acting Assistant Secretary Michele Roberts said during a briefing Wednesday. That is more than the state's initial estimate of 219,000 doses.
The state is also expected to receive about 180,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of December, pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Roberts said. The FDA is expected to meet on Dec. 17 regarding the Moderna vaccine.
The Department of Health has selected 17 sites across 13 counties that will receive the first doses of the vaccine. Roberts would not offer specifics on where the vaccine is going, citing security concerns.
Hospital officials said they are anxious to get the vaccine to their healthcare workers.
"We are ready to roll as soon as we have vaccines," said Dr. Kevin Caserta, chief medical officer for Providence Southwest Washington. He said his hospitals in Olympia and Centralia are currently caring 50 COVID-19 patients.
Caserta said he hopes his employees are in the first group of medical workers to get the vaccines. "I got my Christmas sweater on today. It makes me have hope," he said.
The first group that will receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Washington will be high-risk health care workers and also “folks in long-term care settings,” said state Secretary of Health John Wiesman.
Wiesman made that announcement during a press conference Tuesday when Gov. Jay Inslee announced the current COVID-19 restrictions on indoor businesses, restaurants, and gyms in Washington state were extended until Jan. 4. The restrictions were set to expire on Dec. 14.
Wiesman said the state is currently enrolling providers and “ensuring that we’ll be able to have that vaccine across the state.”
“Those employers are working with their employees to identify who’s at highest risk, and using guidelines we have to identify those folks,” said Wiesman. “So, we will be making final allocations later this week and next week and into which places they will go.”
Wiesman noted that there are around 300,000 health care workers, by the state’s estimate, who fall into the high-risk category.
“That includes not just doctors and nurses, but also other support staff that are providing care to these individuals,” said Wiesman. “So, it’s going to take us a number of weeks and into January to be able to get through to all of those folks.”
The Food and Drug Administration released documents Tuesday showing Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was strongly protective against COVID-19 -- offering the world’s first detailed look at the evidence behind the shots. The documents were released the same day Britain began vaccinating its oldest citizens with the Pfizer-BioNTech shots.