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Health - Vaccine Updates for Schools

Posted on: January 20, 2021

Vaccine Update for Schools 1.20.21

On Monday, 1/18, the Washington State Department of Health announced that individuals in Phase 1B Tier 1 are now eligible to be vaccinated. This opens up vaccinations to people 65 and older, and people who are 50 and older who live in multigenerational households. Due to limited vaccine supply, Whatcom County continues to emphasize vaccination of individuals in Phase 1A Tiers 1 and 2 who are on the front lines of our healthcare system. 

Here’s what more you need to know.

Who is able to be vaccinated now?

Anyone in Phase 1A, Tiers 1 and 2, or in Phase 1B Tier 1 are now eligible to be vaccinated. 

Teachers or school staff who are age 65 or older, or who are age 50 or older and live in a multigenerational household, can be vaccinated now. If you fit those criteria, you should check your healthcare provider’s website to find out if they are vaccinating people now. 


School nurses are included in Phase 1A and can also be vaccinated now.


Where are we in our vaccination efforts?

Right now, the demand for vaccines in Whatcom County far exceeds the supply, and it's our greatest limiting factor. Many counties in Washington with smaller populations have received and been able to administer enough vaccine to cover all their Phase 1A workers, but that's not the case in Whatcom County. To date, we’ve received a total of about 9,000 doses, and 1,000 more are due to ship this week. That’s 10,000 doses to all 17 currently enrolled providers to vaccinate the 14,000-16,000 Phase 1A1 highest risk healthcare workers, the 42,000 people over the age of 65, residents of long term care facilities who aren’t in the federal vaccine partnership program, and the “all other healthcare providers” not included in Phase 1A1.

We're hopeful that as we begin to receive more vaccine and have many more providers enrolled to administer vaccines that vaccination will expand greatly in our community. We are also in the rapid-planning stages of preparing to launch large-scale community vaccine clinic(s) in our community, a collaborative effort with several of our large healthcare providers. We will share more information about that effort as we are able to confirm details.

Yesterday, DOH added vaccination data that shows the number of doses of vaccine administered in our county and state, plus several other statewide vaccine data points. You can find this information on our Data Dashboard at www.whatcomcounty.us/coviddata or on the DOH data page. While there have been some challenges for providers reporting this data, we are currently working with DOH to ensure the accuracy of the data reported in those two locations.

Until more vaccines arrive, we are asking folks to be patient for just a while longer. We know providers are working incredibly hard to get shots in arms, and we all are ready and willing to vaccinate thousands more as soon as we are able to.

What This Means for Schools

If you fall into Phase 1B Tier 1, you should:

  • Check your healthcare provider’s website for updates about vaccine availability. 
  • Pay attention to email or text updates or portal messages from your provider. 
  • When you do have an opportunity to make an appointment, sign up right away, and keep your appointment. 
  • Please be patient. Know that your provider is likely getting many calls from people with questions about vaccines.

Later phases of Phase 1B include a broader range of critical workers in high risk settings. 

  • Teachers and other school staff aged 50 years or older are included in Phase 1B Tier 2. 
  • Staff under 50 years are able to be vaccinated in Phase 1B Tier 4. 
  • According to announcements made by the Governor’s Office on January 18, there will be flexibility in vaccinating people in Phase 1B Tiers 2-4 once we move into the next phase.
  • We will move to the next phase at the direction of DOH.

Decisions about who is in which phase and tier for vaccination distribution, when we move on to the next tiers, and how much vaccine comes to Whatcom County are made by the Washington State Department of Health. For more information about the guidance for Phase 1A and B, read this summary or check out this infographic. 

Next Steps

No matter where you or your employees land on the vaccine prioritization timetable, the goal is to get you vaccinated as soon as possible.  We’re working as fast as we can to get the vaccine to you. When it’s time to get vaccinated, sign up right away, and keep your appointment!

While you are waiting for the vaccine, you can still do the three W’s:  Wear a Mask, Wash your Hands, Watch your distance.  In fact, we need you to do these things in order to get through this as safely as we can. 

Information about vaccines is changing quickly and we strive to provide the most reliable and accurate update in a timely way. You can expect more updates from us and from the Washington State Department of Health as soon as we are able to provide solid information for you.

For the most up-to-date information, check our website frequently.

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