Island County hasn’t been receiving as many COVID-19 vaccines as it should be despite vigorous advocacy, according to statistics from the state.
On Tuesday, Island County commissioners discussed the confusion and chaos that has been part of the state’s distribution of vaccines. They described a situation in which different counties are competing against each other to procure as many vaccines as possible.
The commissioners bemoaned the lack of clarity in how the state is distributing the vaccine and the fact that people from other counties are getting vaccinations in Island County.
The commissioners also congratulated the county’s COVID response team for aggressively advocating at the state level for vaccine allotments. Last week, the county was only going to receive 100 vaccines, but it was raised to 800 after the staff had strong and convincing words with the state.
Commissioner Melanie Bacon said the county’s success in controlling the spread of the virus led to state officials thinking they could disregard the county.
“No, you can’t just ignore the county,” she said. “We need to be rewarded for the fact that we’ve been doing a good job.”
She pointed out that 30 percent of the county’s population is 65 years old and older, making it one of the “grayest” counties in the state.
The state Department of Health announced Thursday that 773,000 people have been vaccinated so far in the state, which is more than 10 percent of the population.
The state reported that 8,200 people in Island County have received vaccinations, which is 9.6 percent of the population. While it’s not far below the state average, it doesn’t even put the county in the top 20 in terms of vaccinations per capita.
Neighboring Skagit County has 10.5 percent of its population vaccinated. Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson protested last month when the state forced providers in the county to send a portion of their vaccines to Skagit County after officials there complained about having fewer vaccines.
Since vaccine distribution began in the United States on Dec. 14, more than 33 million doses have been administered, reaching 8 percent of the total U.S. population, according to federal data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state Department of Health sent out a statement Thursday that clarifies that vaccines are distributed based on several factors, including the proportional population of those eligible in the county. Under that condition, Island County should be getting more vaccines than most other counties because of the number of people over 65.
Currently, individuals in the 1B group — those who are age 65 and over and those over 50 who live in multigenerational households — are able to receive the vaccines.
There is good news. WhidbeyHealth announced this week that it is reopening the scheduler for vaccination appointments after having to cancel 12,000 vaccine appointments last week due to a shortfall in vaccines.
Officials caution people not to be disappointed if they are unable to get appointments as demand is high.