Washington hits 70% vaccination milestone, Spokane still lags behind

SPOKANE, Wash. — A milestone in the fight against COVID-19 has finally been reached in Washington—70 percent of people 16 and older have received at least one COVID vaccine. It’s a goal Washington tried to meet at the end of June, but health officials are not done trying to reach those that are vaccine-hesitant.

In Spokane County, only 55.4 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine, and while that number increases by a half of a percent every few days, Dr. Frank Velazquez from Spokane’s Regional Health District is confident that trend will continue.

However, while overall COVID cases have been declining, people between 18 and 39 are still making up most of the cases. They’re also the group that is the least immunized. Velazquez is making reaching these young adults a priority, especially with the Delta variant being more easily transmissible .

“These variants are also taking a hold of younger populations, and that’s where we need to really stress immunization, regardless of your past history,” Velazquez said.

Just a few weeks ago, of all the cases they were testing, the Delta variant was about 20 percent of them. Today, that number has increased to 41 percent across the state.

“If we do have areas of low immunizations, the danger for delta variant or any of the other variants in the community to spread is a lot higher,” Velazquez explained.

Part of their vaccine outreach is adding clinics to places like the downtown Hoopfest courts to make access even easier.

“Success is incremental, and we’ll continue to work on increments,” Velazquez said. “[It] used to be hundreds a day and now we do 30, 40, 50 and that’s a success.”

They’re also continuing their work in ethnic minority groups. Currently health community health workers who are experts in the ethnic minority, are trying to lower barriers.  Whether it’s translated material, having more accessible hours,  or building trust in the system, they’re trying to make sure every group is targeted for as long as it is needed.