Contrary to rumors and social media posts, people do not need to get on a waiting list to be vaccinated for COVID-19 on Whidbey Island.
The state, however, will be making online tools available to help people determine when and where they can get the vaccine.
WhidbeyHealth Medical Center administered the first vaccines Dec. 17 and has been vaccinating front-line healthcare workers since then, in accordance with state guidelines.
Online posts on popular Whidbey websites have caused confusion in regard to vaccinations.
Both Island County Public Health Director Keith Higman and a spokesperson from WhidbeyHealth explained that there are no waitlists.
Nic Wildeman, a community relations specialist for WhidbeyHealth, said that hospital staff has been keeping the contact information of people who call and ask about the vaccine only so that they can be contacted when vaccinations are available to them.
“This is not a waitlist and in no way will it be a determiner of when people get vaccinated,” he said.
Public Health isn’t collecting any names at all.
“We’ve had people call all day wanting to put their name on the list because they for sure believe there is one,” Higman said.
“Island County Public Health is not maintaining a list. If someone else is maintaining a list, it’s not us.”
Currently, only people in Phase 1a are receiving vaccinations; the phase covers high-risk health care workers as well as people who work and reside in long-term health care facilities.
Instead, an online tool will help residents determine if and when they can get a vaccine. Higman said it will be called PhaseFinder, and it will be released sometime this week to help people determine when they qualify to be vaccinated.
A second online tool that shows vaccination sites will be released later, he said.
Both apps are from the state Department of Health.
Higman added that county health department will not be administering vaccines to the public. While local government will know how many doses the hospital receives, it will not know how many doses pharmacies and other vaccination sites will get, he said.
“The apps are really going to be the best way for the public to find that information,” Higman said.
The two apps are in addition to WA Notify, a smartphone setting that alerts users if they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus and if both parties have elected to share the information.
Higman said 4,000 doses had come into Island County as of Monday morning. WhidbeyHealth reported that 1,056 vaccines were administered as of Tuesday morning. The hospital previously said it hoped to give out 1,600 vaccines in the two weeks after staff began administering shots in mid-December to healthcare workers and first responders.
“Any occupation that is at all connected to health care now has access to the vaccine,” Higman said.
He said the next eligible group will be essential workers, as determined by the state, and people over the age of 75.
Higman cautions that there will likely be a wait for everyone who wants a vaccine to get one, but not because of lack of supply.
“It’s not the amount of vaccine, it’s the number of people available to stick you in the arm,” Higman explained.
So far, Wildeman said, there have been “no constraints” on administering vaccines and volunteers have stepped up to help staff.