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As Kittitas County residents begin to receive their second COVID vaccine shots, county officials are working hard to fill slots to ensure all who qualify for the current approved tiers are vaccinated.

Tuesday marked the first day of administering booster shots of the Pfizer-made vaccine to the general population in Kittitas County, with approximately 250 doses of the booster administered to patients at the county’s vaccine clinic at the fairgrounds. With the second half of the day dedicated to providing first doses, the Tuesday clinic vaccinated approximately 400 people.

“It’s really great to be approaching not only a percentage of our population that’s initiated their vaccination, but also a percentage of our population that’s completed their vaccination,” Kittitas County Public Health Administrator Tristen Lamb said. “It’s just really exciting. It feels like we’re starting to close the cycle.”

If all goes to schedule, Lamb estimates that in approximately three weeks the clinic will be able to administer all the booster shots to those in the county waiting for them. In the meantime, she said the hope is that the county doesn’t have to put the brakes on continuing to administer initial shots to residents.

The determining factor on whether or not the brakes are applied relies on a concept referred to as saturation. Lamb said the term is being used rather abstractly at this point, as the county has no solid definition for when it will reach saturation. Saturation loosely means that the county has run out of people within the approved tiers to vaccinate.

“The state guidelines say that we are not moving out of 1b1 until as a state, we’ve gotten 50% of that population vaccinated,” Lamb said. “Last week, they had only gotten 25% of that population vaccinated. To be fair, it’s really hard data.”

Lamb said the county looking at census data to determine the percentage of people over 65 in the county in order to determine how many they have already vaccinated. To make things even more challenging, she said it is incredibly difficult to determine the number of people living in the county who are members of a multigenerational household.

“Our data is showing us in Kittitas County, we should have about 8,000 people that fit our 1b Tier 1 eligibility requirements,” Lamb said. “State DOH shows that we’ve had just over 6,400 people initiate vaccination in Kittitas County as of Feb. 10. We know that number is higher now.”

HARD TO SORT

Another challenge Lamb said the department faces is having all the numbers lumped into one category. She said the county’s database does not give them the opportunity to sort vaccinations by age and zip code, as it wasn’t designed to handle mass-vaccination events.

“It was just designed to handle the kids that needed vaccinations to go to school,” she said.

Although Lamb said less than 10% of the people that have been vaccinated in the county have reported zip codes outside the county, she said that factor has to be considered when trying to gauge the number of people within the open tiers who have already received a dose. To further complicate things, she said some county residents have traveled to other vaccine sites in the state.

“Right now, we’re still trying to figure out a more concrete number of how much of that 6,400 really points us toward saturation,” she said. “I’m not sure we’re there yet. We could be anywhere from 37% to well above 50% of our 1b Tier 1, and I’d hate to put the brakes on it.”

Although the county’s waitlist filled up rapidly in the initial weeks of its rollout, Lamb said the county is now at a point where they have worked to contact everyone who is currently on the waitlist and qualifies under the open tiers to get them set up for a vaccination appointment.

“We have saturated that waitlist,” she said. “We do have individuals on the waitlist that are not yet eligible, and it’s great to have them on there so when we can pivot to 1b2 or 1b3, we can get those people lined and start going. It’s not helping us right now.”

Looking ahead in the week, Lamb said the clinic will continue to have second dose appointments for the Pfizer vaccine, with the second doses of Moderna vaccines being administered beginning next week. This week, she said the county had enough of the Pfizer vaccine left over to administer 900 first doses. As of Tuesday, she said there were plenty of spaces left on Thursday and Friday for those who qualify and haven’t received their first dose yet.

Lamb said the department has heard from some residents that qualify for the current tiers but say that they would rather the vaccine go to those who may be sick or in worse health than them.

“We can’t move forward until we get those eligible individuals,” she said. “Please, if you’re eligible, we need you. Otherwise, we’re going to have to vaccinate Yakima, or we’re going to have to pause.”

Lamb stressed that the governor’s office determines who is currently eligible to receive the vaccine and when the next tier will be approved to distribute vaccines to. She pointed out that at the beginning of distribution, the county would vaccinate teachers with leftover doses.

“It was the right thing,” she said. “We do not regret that in the slightest and we would do it again if we could, but Kittitas County is being watched. We have been told that if we are in fact approaching saturation in our county, we have two options. One is to vaccinate people from out of county who are eligible, or the second option is to send our vaccines to another county that has not yet reached saturation. This is a federal and state resource that is being distributed at a local level with local resources, and everyone in the state that qualifies is entitled to it.”

Reporting for the DR since March 2018. Lover of campfires, black labs and good vibes. Proud Humboldt State alum!

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