Statement on Federal School and Childcare Vaccination Plan

“As you heard today, President Biden announced a directive to all states to get every pre-K educator, K-12 teacher, and childcare worker at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine in the month of March.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) recognizes the importance of vaccinating educators, school staff, and childcare workers. School staff and childcare workers were already in the next group to become eligible for vaccines, and our state was moving to vaccinate them in a matter of weeks. This announcement represents a faster timeline than originally planned, and the department is engaging partners on a robust plan to support this directive.

DOH is working quickly to get clarity from the Biden Administration to ensure roll-out in our state will result in ample vaccine supply through various providers and equitable access for education and childcare workers. Vaccine supply will likely primarily be delivered through the federal pharmacy program, and the directive indicates all vaccine providers should prioritize these workers.

DOH remains committed to continued vaccination for older adults and others who are currently prioritized for vaccinations under the current plan. DOH also remains committed to vaccinating all Washingtonians as quickly and equitably as possible.

DOH acknowledges these announcements may cause a mix of excitement, concern, and confusion for different communities. The department will share more information in the days ahead as DOH learns more from our federal partners.”

COVID-19 prevention efforts remain critical despite declining trends

OLYMPIA – Today the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statewide situation report on COVID-19.

Report findings include:

  • While trends in cases, hospitalizations and deaths are largely continuing to decline, some concerning signs remain. In particular, the state is detecting increasing numbers of cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that spreads more easily than other strains. As this variant continues to spread through the state and becomes predominant, case numbers and hospitalizations will likely increase and could strain health care resources.
  • COVID-19 transmission decreased in January following peaks in late December, but the reproductive number (Re) has remained close to 1 in both eastern and western Washington. The best estimate of the reproductive number (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) on Feb. 5 was 0.71 in western Washington and 0.88 in eastern Washington. The goal is maintaining a reproductive number well below one—meaning COVID-19 transmission is declining—for a substantial amount of time.
  • Case rates have remained high across the state but continue moving in the right direction. Only nine of 39 counties had rates above 200 new cases per 100,000 people over the two-week period ending on Feb. 11. No counties had rates above 500 new cases per 100,000 people.
  • The estimated percentage of people with active COVID-19 infections is only slightly lower than the peak estimates during the first two waves of disease in late March and mid-July 2020. The best model-based prevalence estimate as of Feb. 5 was 0.16%. That means we still have a lot of infected people who may need health care and could be spreading the virus to others.
  • Total hospital admissions have steadily declined since early January, with a slight flattening beginning in early February. While this trend is going in the right direction, hospital admissions as of early February were still only slightly lower than the highest levels in the first two waves of disease in 2020.
  • The number of hospital beds occupied by confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients was steadily declining across the state as of Feb. 22. This trend follows a late fall spike that flattened in early to mid-January. The number of ICU beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has varied more, but has generally been declining since January.

“Despite the very positive signs we’re seeing in the data, we are still in a risky situation and we must all work to maintain and strengthen our prevention measures; however, I remain cautiously optimistic,” said Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. “As we see cases of the B.1.1.7, B1.351, and other variants of concern increase, it’s more critical than ever to keep limiting gatherings, wearing masks, watching our distance and washing our hands.”

DOH partners with the Institute for Disease Modeling, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington and the Microsoft AI for Health program to develop these reports every other week. More COVID-19 data can be found on the DOH data dashboard and in the state’s Roadmap to Recovery dashboard.

US coronavirus death toll approaches milestone of 500,000

The U.S. stood Sunday at the brink of a once-unthinkable tally: 500,000 people lost to the coronavirus.

A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost was about 498,000 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta. The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.

“It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Read the full article from AP

Aging & COVID-19: Vaccination, Mental and Physical Health, and Isolation

COVID-19 has changed older adult’s daily routines, the care and support they receive, and their ability to stay socially connected with others. Older adults are being challenged to spend more time alone and to forgo any physical contact with family members, friends and colleagues. All while dealing with the fear and anxiety of getting sick and potentially dying. Since the beginning of the pandemic the health impact of COVID-19 on older adults has been of great concern, especially those in long-term care facilities and congregate settings. As of February 11th, COVID-19 has claimed 166,403 lives in long-term care facilities, 36% of all reported COVID-19 cases in the United States.

This infographic explores aging during COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy in older adults and those who take care of them, the long term effects the pandemic will have on long-term care settings and how we address aging in the United States.

Learn more from NIHCM.

Vaccine Shipment Delays

“Winter storms are causing vaccine shipment delays across the nation. DOH estimates more than 90% of this week’s allocation will arrive late due to weather out east. Moderna vaccines have not shipped yet this week. Pfizer vaccines did not ship Monday, and only a limited number of vaccine shipments were processed Tuesday and Wednesday. These shipment delays may force providers to reschedule appointments. If you have a vaccine appointment this week, please contact your provider for an update.

Due to the delivery delays, the state-led mass vaccinations sites in Kennewick and Spokane will be closed through the weekend. Those with appointments will be contacted by email to reschedule their appointments for next week. The Ridgefield mass vaccination site will also be closed Saturday. No appointments were made for Saturday, so no one will need to reschedule an appointment.”

Vaccine Monitor: Reasons Vary Why People Want to “Wait and See” Before Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

The latest KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor reports that 31% of the public say that when an FDA-approved vaccine for COVID-19 is available to them for free, they will “wait until it has been available for a while to see how it is working for other people” before getting vaccinated themselves. This “wait and see” group is an important target for outreach and messaging, since they express some hesitancy about getting vaccinated, but will likely be much easier to convert from vaccine-hesitant to vaccine-acceptant than those who say they will “definitely not” get the vaccine or will get it “only if required” to do so. As reported in January, those in the “wait and see” category express high levels of concern about the safety and long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccines as well as a desire for more information about vaccine side effects and effectiveness. Most adults in this group (60%) do not yet know someone who’s been vaccinated for COVID-19, presenting an opportunity for them to learn more as more of their friends and family members get vaccinated.

This analysis examines the “wait and see” group in more detail, with a focus on their concerns about being vaccinated, the messages that resonate most, and the messengers they are likely to turn to for more information about COVID-19 vaccination. In particular, it looks at how attitudes within this group differ by partisanship and race/ethnicity, which should be helpful for those looking to target vaccine outreach and communication to groups like Republicans, Black adults, and Hispanic adults.

Read the full article from KFF.

The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, a share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019 (Figure 1). A KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 also found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss.”

Read the full article from KFF

COVID-19 vaccine distribution update from the Washington State Department of Health

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) continues to make progress with our COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration efforts.

As of Feb. 6, more than 940,000 doses of vaccine have been given across the state, which is nearly 80% of the 1,195,207 doses that have been delivered to our providers and long-term care programs. Washington is currently averaging 26,857 vaccine doses given each day. This information can be found on the DOH data dashboard under the vaccines tab, which is updated three times per week.

Second doses

We know there has been confusion surrounding second doses. We are committed to ensuring there is a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine for everyone who receives their first dose, which is why we have asked providers to prioritize vaccine series completion. This may mean using first doses to vaccinate people who need second doses. Last week, DOH reached out to providers to pave a clear pathway moving forward. We encourage providers to schedule second dose appointments when patients receive their first dose.

The second dose should be administered as close to the recommended interval as possible.

  • Two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech should be given 3 weeks or 21 days apart.
  • Two doses of Moderna should be given 1 month or 28 days apart.

If people are not able to get a second dose appointment following the recommended interval, the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be scheduled for administration up to 6 weeks or 42 days after the first dose.

Vaccine supply

Supply from the federal government continues to be our greatest challenge. This week our providers requested more than 440,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including 281,100 first doses and 165,750 second doses. In all, we received just over 200,000 doses from the federal government, which is less than half.

Although doses are not where we would like them to be right now, we are optimistic about the future. We have been told by the federal government that allocations for both Pfizer and Moderna will increase in the coming weeks and months.

The progress of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also encouraging. Last Thursday, the company announced they submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of its Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The FDA could decide on a EUA by the end of February.

Allocation forecast

For the first time, DOH received a 3-week allocation forecast from the federal government. Up until last week, we did not receive weekly allocation numbers until Tuesday morning, making it difficult for our staff, providers, and the public. The allocation forecast is a blend of first and second doses and is subject to change as vaccine availability from the federal government may change.

  • Week of February 14: 206,125 total doses (113,800 first doses, 92,325 second doses)
  • Week of February 21: 240,620 total doses (123,160 first doses, 117,460 second doses)
  • Week of February 28: 242,360 total doses (128,560 first doses, 113,800 second doses)

This information allows us to develop a multi-week strategy that helps with consistency and predictability. We hope to have this plan fully in place in the coming weeks.

Pfizer says its Covid vaccine trial for kids ages 12 to 15 is fully enrolled

Pfizer said it had fully enrolled its Covid-19 vaccine trial in kids ages 12 to 15, a key step before the vaccine could be used in that age group.

The study, an extension of the one used to support the company’s Emergency Use Authorization of the vaccine in people 16 and older, has enrolled 2,259 kids between 12 and 15, Pfizer told CNBC Friday. Its entry on a government website for clinical trials was updated to note it’s no longer recruiting subjects.

The vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, was authorized for people ages 16 and older in December. Trials in younger age groups are necessary to ensure the correct dose, as well as safety and efficacy in those different groups, said Dr. Evan Anderson, a pediatrician at Emory University School of Medicine.

“I am very uncomfortable sending my children back to school, where — despite the best efforts of the school — there is a real risk for contracting Covid-19,” Anderson told CNBC in October.

While children are less affected by Covid-19 than adults, they do still catch the virus and get sick. Some have even died. More than 2.5 million cases of Covid-19 had been reported in children as of Jan. 14, about 13% of all cases, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

Read more from CNBC