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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: January 7, 2021

Whatcom County COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Right now, Whatcom County is in Phase 1a of Washington State’s Vaccine Allocation Plan. We know there is a lot of interest in the allocation, distribution, and administration of vaccines and questions about when people will be able to be vaccinated. Here is the latest update on where we are, and where we’re headed with vaccine distribution. 


How do I know what Phase I’m in?

DOH has issued a timeline that briefly describes the various phases, groups within each phase, and the estimated timeline for implementation. The phases have been developed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Whatcom County Health Department does not have a role in determining what phase you may belong in. You can also find information in the Phase 1a vaccine allocation guidance from DOH, to determine if you are in Phase 1a.


What is Phase 1a?

Phase 1a Tier 1 includes:

  • Healthcare workers at the highest risk of getting or passing on COVID-19.

    • This includes caregivers or other workers with direct patient contact in settings like the hospital, home health care, assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, urgent care clinics, or COVID-19 testing sites. 

  • Paramedics and EMTs.

  • Residents of long-term care facilities.

Phase 1a Tier 2 includes:

  • All other workers at risk in health care settings.

Anyone in Phase 1a Tier 1 or 2 can be vaccinated right now. 

How do I get vaccinated if I’m in Phase 1a?

If you have determined you are in Phase 1a, you should:

  • Review the Phase 1a vaccine allocation guidance from DOH, and determine if you are in Tier 1 or 2. 

  • Talk to your employer about their plans to vaccinate staff.

  • Talk to your regular healthcare provider to find out if they are vaccinating Phase 1a workers.

  • Watch our website - www.whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine -  for updates. We’ll share updated information about how to get vaccinated there.


If you are in Phase 1a and you work or live at a long-term care facility, how you receive the vaccine will depend on the plans your facility has for vaccination. There are three main ways you might be vaccinated:

  • If your facility is enrolled in the federal program in which pharmacies will administer vaccines on-site, you’ll receive the vaccine when the pharmacy comes to administer them. Long-term care facilities will work directly with pharmacies to arrange for staff and resident vaccination, and WCHD won’t be involved.

  • Your facility may have an agreement with a pharmacy or other provider to provide vaccines for staff and residents that is separate from the federal program.

  • We are currently working with vaccine administrators in our community to identify ways that they can help vaccinate Phase 1a workers who can’t be vaccinated by their employer. We are also closely following work by DOH to assist people in finding out which phase they can be vaccinated in. We will share more information on our website about these developments as it becomes available.


What is Phase 1b?

Phase 1b will begin once everyone in Phase 1a has had an opportunity to get vaccinated. Phase 2 is broken up into four Tiers:

  • Phase 1b Tier 1 - Estimated to occur in January

    • All people 70 years and older.

    • People 50 years and older who live in multigenerational households.

  • Phase 1b Tier 2 - Estimated to occur in February

    • High-risk critical workers 50 years and older who work in congregate settings, such as agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, K-12 (teachers and school staff), child care, corrections, prisons, jails, or detention facilities, public transit, fire, and law enforcement.

  • Phase 1b Tier 3 - Estimated to occur in March

    • People 16 years or older with 2 or more underlying conditions.

  • Phase 1b Tier 4 - Estimated to occur in April

    • High-risk critical workers in congregate settings under 50 years old.

    • People, staff, and volunteers of all ages in congregate living settings, such as correctional facilities, group homes for people with disabilities, and shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

You can find an estimated timeline for the Phases on the DOH website


Vaccine Allocation and Administration in Whatcom County

As of January 4, 5900 doses have been delivered to vaccine providers in Whatcom County, not including vaccines allocated for long-term care facilities through the federal pharmacy program. We estimate that there are 14,000-16,000 people who are in Phase 1a Tier 1, not including residents of long-term care facilities. This means providers in Whatcom County have received only 37% of the estimated amount needed to vaccinate Phase 1a Tier 1. Twelve vaccine sites have been approved by DOH as enrolled providers, and more than double that number have pending applications. You can watch our recent media briefing for more information about vaccine distribution in our county.


We look forward to being able to report the number of vaccines that have been given in our county. We are unable to do so right now, because COVID-19 vaccination data is reported directly to the state, not to local health departments. At this time, we aren’t confident that the data reported for Whatcom County in the state system is accurate as new reporting processes are being worked out. We are working to improve it, so that we can share regular updates. 


Everyone who wants to be vaccinated will have the opportunity to be vaccinated, and it will take many months before vaccines are broadly available. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to keep masking up, spreading out and staying safe.

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