Whatcom County calls out state over allocation of vaccine doses

VIDEO: Whatcom County calls out state over allocation of vaccine doses

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — Whatcom County called out the state over what it said was a lack of transparency in how vaccines are being allocated, saying they are being shorted.

The state Department of Health shows the county has only received about 2% of the more than 1.1 million doses that have been distributed in Washington.

County health officials said vaccine distribution efforts have been a mess. After administering 1,000 doses one week, the next week the county received zero doses and officials said that is only part of the problem.

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“It’s absolutely frustrating,” said county council and board of health member Ben Elenbaas.

Health officials said Whatcom is not getting its fair share of the vaccines.

“When you see the distribution isn’t really equitable and we don’t know what metrics are being used to distribute it, then it leads people’s minds to wander,” Elenbaas said.

Whatcom County asked for 8,000 doses this week but only received 700 while Island County, which has a third of Whatcom’s population, received more than double that amount, he said.

“Explain to us why!”

Elenbaas wrote the Department of Health, demanding answers.

“I do think that we can do a better job,” said Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s secretary of health.

Shah addressed those concerns Thursday, saying that distribution is tough to compare.

“There’s no way that we can provide vaccines to everybody who would like to have those vaccines from a provider standpoint,” Shah said.

“I was absolutely disappointed in that,” Elenbaas said.

Whatcom’s vaccination rate is at 25%, far behind other counties. Health officials said they need more doses to get on track, but delays leave them wondering if and when they could receive more.

“What about us?” Elenbaas said. “People I meet on the street, they want to know when and how they can get their vaccine.”

The state said the reason they cannot notify counties about vaccine allotments weeks ahead is that they do not know that information until a few days before distributing doses. Officials said they are working with county officials in Whatcom on how to improve the system.