UW Medicine hopes to restart first dose appointments

SEATTLE — The first shipment of Johnson and Johnson vaccine is expected to arrive in Washington this week.

The approval of a third vaccine brings hope to hospitals eager to open up first dose appointments. Hospitals will be less likely to get the single-dose vaccine, because they have the cold storage for Pfizer and Moderna.

In January allocations to hospitals were cut and many had to pause scheduling first dose appointments. Hospital vaccine allocations were severely cut as the state redirected doses to mass vaccination sites and pop up clinics in communities most at risk of COVID illness and death.

UW Medicine paused first dose appointments in January, along with many other local hospitals.

“Essentially, we’ve been on pause since late January because we haven’t had reliable allocations. So we haven’t been able to make appointments and we know people have a huge emotional attachment to these appointments and we don’t want to have to cancel them,” said Cynthia Dold, UW Medicine associate vice president of clinical operations.

UW Medicine’s vaccine supply has fluctuated to the point that new appointments were no longer an option.

“Based on what we’re seeing at the federal and state level in terms of intel around overall supply, I think we’re optimistic that in March we’d be able to come off pause and get new first dose appointments scheduled again. We know people have been incredibly patient and many are frustrated, I think. We want folks to know we’re doing everything we can,” said Dold.

Last weekend UW Medicine worked with Public Health Seattle and King County to hold a pop-up clinic at the UW Medicine Kent-Des Moines Clinic. Public Health had 500 doses of vaccine and UW Medicine arranged the clinic.

Swedish is shifting its focus from the Seattle U Vaccine Clinic to plans to open Lumen Field as a mass vaccination site.

Overlake and Evergreen are teaming up with Microsoft at the mass vaccination site at the high-tech campus. The public can’t sign up, community outreach is identifying those most at risk of COVID illness and death and helping book their appointments. Overlake Hospital says it is doing about 900 vaccinations a day at the mass vaccination site.

The CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, Cassie Sauer, said multiweek allocations of vaccine would go a long way to helping make appointments. It would also help meet the requirement to use 95% of vaccine that’s allocated. For now, WSHA realizes the state has shifted allocations and it will see what happens when more vaccine comes into the state.

“We don’t think at the moment that hospitals are likely to get much (Johnson & Johnson vaccine) because we have the capacity to handle the ultra cold storage required for Pfizer and the quite cold storage required for Moderna,” said Sauer.

On Tuesday, the Biden Administration announced there should be enough vaccine for every adult in the country by the end of May, that’s two months earlier than expected.

One reason, Johnson and Johnson competitor, Merck, is stepping in to help Johnson and Johnson manufacture its vaccine.