In the coming weeks, the Yakima Health District will focus more on mobile and pop-up vaccine clinics and less on running a mass vaccination site.
In recent weeks, more Yakima County residents have been receiving COVID-19 vaccines through mobile sites than at the drive-thru vaccination site at State Fair Park, said Nathan Johnson, local emergency coordinator for the Yakima Health District.
The pilot project from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, sent vaccines and support to the community vaccine center at State Fair Park along with mobile vaccine clinics.
Since the beginning of April, more than 5,000 doses from the FEMA effort were distributed at 193 mobile clinics throughout the Yakima Valley. Each clinic administered anywhere from 10 to 280 doses.
These figures do not include mobile clinics held by other medical providers outside the FEMA pilot project.
Early during the vaccine effort, the goal was to get ample supply to provide vaccine to anyone who wanted to get it. Now that there is ample supply, the aim is to find ways to get the vaccine out to residents, Johnson said.
“It’s not just a one-and-done thing. It’s a long-term effort,” he said. “It’s constantly adjusting and working collectively as a community to get as many vaccines out as we can.”
Local numbers below state average
Among residents 16 and up, 48.6% of Yakima County residents have received at least one shot, and 39.5% are fully vaccinated. Yakima County’s numbers are below state averages. Statewide, 57% of those 16 and up have received at least one shot, and 43.7% are fully vaccinated.
As of Monday, 91,823 Yakima County residents have received at least one shot of the vaccine and 74,621 residents are fully vaccinated, according to figures from the state Department of Health.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday said he plans to reopen the state on June 30 or whenever the state has 70% of people 16 and up with one dose, whichever happens first. He also announced plans to work with businesses to provide incentives for people who are vaccinated.
The daily distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses has been falling in the last several weeks locally and statewide. In Yakima County, the number of doses administered peaked on April 9 at 4,369 doses. On Monday, 957 doses were administered.
Statewide, daily distributions were pushing 90,000 in mid-April and have declined since then. On Monday, 38,362 doses were administered.
Johnson said in recent weeks, anywhere from 400 to 700 residents a day have visited the State Fair Park mass vaccination site and the FEMA-run mobile clinics.
“That is a lot of individuals who wouldn’t have had the opportunity” to get vaccinated previously, he said.
Johnson said there are still people who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine due to accessibility issues. People might not have technology to set up appointments. They might not have transportation to a vaccine clinic or have difficulty leaving work to get the vaccine.
With the FEMA pilot project wrapping up in the next few weeks, the Yakima Health District is focused on shifting distribution to bring vaccines out to people.
The Yakima Health District will continue to run a drive-thru vaccination site at State Fair Park, but it will be smaller and open five days a week instead of daily. And the State Fair Park site will be one of several reoccurring community sites, similar to the approach taken with COVID-19 testing a year ago, Johnson said.
Yakima Health District also plans to hold vaccine clinics during community events such as rodeos and food truck festivals.
The vaccine outreach and distribution effort will continue to evolve as needs change, Johnson said. And those needs could be impacted by everything from an influx of new H-2A agricultural workers to new federal approvals, such as the one for the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 to 15 years old.
“We want everyone in our community to have the opportunity to get vaccinated,” Johnson said. “We recognize that (100% vaccination) is not going to happen, but we want to exhaust all and every outreach effort.”