King County funds community COVID-19 vaccination programs to speed health and economic recovery
King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci, and County Councilmembers Rod Dembowski and Jeanne Kohl-Welles announce $7 million to create high-volume community vaccination sites and mobile teams so that as many residents as possible will be quickly, efficiently, and equitably vaccinated.
Story To contain COVID-19 and fully re-open the region, Public Health -- Seattle & King County estimates that it will be necessary to vaccinate at least 70 percent of all adults, or approximately 1.26 million people. Vaccines for high-risk health care personnel and staff and residents in long-term care facilities, designated as phase “1A” by state officials, kicked off on Dec. 17. Today, Executive Constantine put into place an aggressive strategy to rapidly roll out community vaccinations to ensure equitable access and reach people as quickly as possible. These sites are particularly important for individuals who are not connected to the health care system, who work multiple jobs or face barriers to accessing health care such as availability during regular business hours. "King County will step up and organize community vaccination centers and mobile teams to make sure we hit the ground running as more and more people become eligible to receive doses," said Executive Constantine. "To get this pandemic under control, 16,000 adults must be vaccinated every day for six months. That’s why we need everyone behind this effort. We are moving ahead now despite the lack of clarity on supply chain or federal funding allocation because every day delayed impacts the lives of our residents, the strength of our community, and the vitality of our businesses." "Our public health department has capably led the nation in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will now bring to bear our 130 years of experience to vaccinate King County residents to snuff this virus out. We need to do it equitably, and quickly," said Councilmember Rod Dembowski. "To get this done, we must lower the barriers inherent in our health care system – vaccination access must be easy and widespread when it’s your turn. I’ve been getting vaccinated from our department since childhood, and I ask you to join me in getting vaccinated for COVID-19, as soon as it’s your turn." "I applaud Executive Constantine for committing to this significant and crucial investment in building King County’s vaccination infrastructure and subsequent ability to combat COVID-19," said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. "As the Council’s Budget Chair, I will be working with the Executive to secure federal funding for reimbursement of this essential investment. Unfortunately, we are filling a gap that has resulted from the failure of the current federal Administration to fulfill its responsibility. The reality is we cannot wait. Investing now will make it possible for us to significantly and equitably expand vaccination capacity and accessibility as the doses become available." As Public Health learned from deploying COVID testing across the region, high-volume, open access, drive-up and walk-up vaccination sites are essential to ensure equitable access and reach people as quickly as possible. These sites are vital for individuals who are not connected to the health care system. They are particularly important in South King County, which has a higher incidence of COVID-19 and other health disparities. Although many of the approximately 185,000 people over age 70 in King County will access vaccine through their primary care provider or a local pharmacy, these strategies alone will not be sufficient to quickly and efficiently reach everyone in this group. Executive Constantine announced an initial investment of $7 million to create two vaccination centers, likely in South King County. In addition, five mobile strike teams will form to reach those who are not able to visit a healthcare provider or vaccination center. These teams will be particularly helpful in vaccinating members of long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, senior centers, and other areas housing vulnerable populations. The County will continue with important partners like the Washington State Department of Health, City of Seattle, emergency responders from across King County, Kaiser-Permanente, and other hospital systems to bring widespread vaccine access to our community. King County hopes to be reimbursed by the state and federal governments for these costs but will not wait for final inter-governmental negotiations before moving ahead.