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Vashon Island’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy

and its progress – an operation largely supported by skilled volunteers.

Vashon Island’s average resident is over the age of 50 – meaning that as Washington State moves through the first stages of its COVID-19 vaccination prioritization plan the interest in vaccination has reached a fever pitch. This mass interest has been challenged by federal dispersal tactics and abilities. Island vaccination centers are only able to vaccinate depending on their weekly allotment from the Washington Department of Health (DOH) which relies on its share from the federal supply. This supply chain shortage has led to stress and high traffic to Washington’s DOH website as well as heightened communication attempts to all three of Vashon’s approved vaccination sites.

Despite the many challenges, roughly one-fifth of Vashon’s adult population has been vaccinated. Island residents began receiving COVID-19 vaccines during the last week of December. The rollout began with Vashon Community Care residents back in December and picked up again on January 21st as Vashon Pharmacy opened their high-volume drive-through vaccination site.

The Vashon Pharmacy is one of three approved vaccination administration sites. The other two locations, Vashon Natural Medicine and Sea Mar located at Sunrise Ridge have yet to receive the vaccine at a rate that they can offer appointments to the community at large. Both Sea Mar and Vashon Natural Medicine encourage their patients to check their sites regularly to stay up to date on their offerings.

Washington State is currently moving through phase 1B of the vaccination strategic plan (those who were eligible in 1A are still able to get a vaccine dependent on availability). Phase 1A and 1B designate vaccine eligibility for high-risk healthcare workers, high-risk first responders, long-term care residents, all people over the age of 65, and people over the age of 50 who live in multi-generational households. If you are curious about your or your family’s eligibility check Washington’s DOH phase finder tool.

For those that are eligible, the Vashon Pharmacy offers both the first and second dose-dependent on their resource allotment from the state government. It is important to remember that during the early stages of the countries vaccination operations there will only be a small number – if any- of doses arriving on the island each week. Though this may change in the coming weeks as the federal government has approved vaccine shipment straight from their stockpile to pharmacies around the nation – a program that our island pharmacy registered for months back.

To get a vaccine from the Vashon Pharmacy: You must make an appointment. To make an appointment for your first and second dose, visit the pharmacy’s COVID-19 resource page or call the pharmacy from 9 am to 7 pm at 206-463-9118 Option 9. On the day of your vaccination appointment, the pharmacy requests that you arrive on time (no more than 10 minutes early) wearing a shirt that exposes your arm up to your shoulder and bringing with you an ID. For those utilizing the drive-through operation – you will enter the site from SW 178th Street by driving north in the alley between the Vashon Theatre and Chase Bank. You will be met by a volunteer greeter who will ask you questions about COVID-19 symptoms and any potential exposure, as well as direct you to the lot between the paved Vashon Pharmacy customer lot and Water District #19. After you receive your injection, they request you stay 15-30 minutes to assure you have support if you experience an adverse reaction. After that point, you will exit towards IGA and will follow the same process weeks later for your second dose. The process for walk-up appointments will be similar, except you are asked to arrive through the fence opening south of the pharmacy front door at which time you will either be met by a greeter or let yourself into the mobile vaccination unit, as indicated by signage.

The Vashon Pharmacy’s vaccination administration team is supported heavily by volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps, Community Emergency Response Team, and the Emergency Operations Center. These volunteers and their operations have received many accolades from island residents. Judy Carr, an island local, recalls her and her husband’s vaccination experience as being simple, welcoming, and well-coordinated. Carr especially acknowledged the job well-done by the pharmacy and aforementioned volunteer groups, “They had a really good set-up of alert and caring individuals. It was very efficient, and it was very well-coordinated by people who knew what they were doing… we were just really impressed by the job they did.”

Carr, as well as others, have expressed concern over island residents that may not have ready access to technology or vaccination information. To aid this community a new pilot program – Vax Access – has been started. According to VashonBePrepared “ When fully operational, Vax Access will help VashonBePrepared’s partner social service agencies reach out to those with limited access to information or computers, check that they qualify for the current phase, let them know they can be vaccinated, and help them sign up for the drive-through vaccination site at Vashon Pharmacy. The Vax Access program targets seniors, folks with low- or no-digital access, non-English speaking residents, and others experiencing barriers to vaccination. The project calls on social service agency partners because they know their clients well and are trusted by them, improving the potential to reach even those who may be difficult to reach.” 

The road towards a vaccinated island stretches far before us, but with consistent updates from the pharmacy, Vashon Natural Medicine, Sea Mar, and state and federal governments we will hope to move along it as quickly as possible so we may all enjoy each other’s company again soon. 

Abby Lawson
Author: Abby Lawson

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