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A Look Into Washington’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan: Who is Eligible and When?

(WA Vaccination Distribution Plan/ Courtesy of the DOH)

Currently, Washington is in its first phases of Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccination distribution plan. The plan outlines a phased approach of distributing vaccinations, beginning with Washington’s most high-risk population. 

As of Jan. 18, per Phase 1B – Tier 2 guidelines, the vaccine is available to anyone 65 and older, and all people 50 and older who live in a multigenerational household. This is in addition to populations eligible during phase 1A.

Population groups may overlap and some individuals fit into multiple categories. When this is the case, people should follow the eligibility guidelines for the next highest phase. 

Phase 1A – Tier 1:

Phase 1A began at the end of  December. Its objective was to vaccinate high-risk workers in healthcare settings and first responders, to protect our medical care response capacity. 

Residents and staff of nursing homes assisted living facilities, and other community-based living settings where most individuals are over 65 years of age and receiving care, were also included, aiming to avoid more hospitalizations. 

Phase 1A – Tier 2:

Includes all other workers at risk to COVID-19 working in health care settings.

Phase 1B:

Phase 1B aims to include people who are high to moderate risk against the four risk criteria. The four risk criteria are risk of contracting infection, severe morbidity/mortality, negative societal impact and transmission to others. 

Phase 1B – Tier 1:

The first tier in phase 1B focuses on protecting those who are driving hospitalization rates and whose population face high rates of death.

All people 65 years and older, and people 50 years and older in multigenerational households are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Phase 1B – Tier 2: 

In its second tier of phase 1B, high-risk essential workers, 50 years and older, who work in certain congregate settings, are eligible. This tier also includes workers in child care settings such as K-12 educators and staff. 

A congregate setting refers to an environment where individuals work and/or live in an enclosed space, where they are interacting with a high volume of people over an extended amount of time, and are not able to consistently social distance. 

Not all essential worker groups are included, just those outlined below. This group is focused on workers who are working in an enclosed setting working within six feet of other workers over an extended time.  

Workers who are able to socially distance, work remotely or work off-site not in a congregate setting will not be included, including administrators who can work remotely.

  • Workers in grocery stores or food banks
  • Staff in correctional facilities, prisons, jails, detention facilities, and court facilities.
  • Public transit workers. This may include bus, train, ferry, airport and other high-density transportation settings.
  • Firefighters, law enforcement and social workers responding to public health and safety.

Phase 1B – Tier 3: 

In tier three, people 16 years and older who have certain medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe illness if infected with COVID-19 may receive a vaccine. The list of conditions is based upon research conducted by the CDC that is posted here.

Phase 1B – Tier 4: 

Exposure risk is due to factors such as time inside vs. outside, proximity to co-workers or customers, type of contact, duration, daily number of contacts, screening capabilities, cleaning frequency, etc…

Phase 1B – Tier 4 includes two new groups that are at higher risk of exposure. The first group are essential workers from the same groups as tier 2 but now under the age of 50. 

The second group will belong to people in congregate living settings where there is a high risk of exposure and transmission. Such as residents, staff and volunteers in correctional facilities, prisons, jails and detention centers.

In addition, group homes for people with disabilities and people experiencing homelessness are also included. 

Washington residents may use this tool to determine whether or not they are eligible for a vaccine. The tool asks a series of questions according to the phase the state is in. 

If you are eligible, you can use the confirmation page to show your eligibility to your healthcare provider to schedule a vaccination appointment. 

If after completing all the questions and you are not eligible, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) can email, call or text message you when you are eligible to get the vaccine.

According to the Washington DOH, everyone will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine over the coming months. Information about the exact dates of other phases isn’t currently available due to an unpredictable vaccine supply.

“There’s not enough vaccine to go around right now, so it’s gonna take a while for us to get the number of people that we need to get vaccinated, vaccinated. Until we get a larger percentage of the population vaccinated we still have to take all the precautions we’re taking currently,” Dr. Gretchen LaSalle, an American Academy vaccine fellow, said during a Q&A session held by the Washington DOH.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free for all in Washington, regardless of whether you have private health insurance, are uninsured or are on Medicare.

To locate the nearest vaccination site near you, click here.

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