SEATTLE — Seattle just took a giant step toward vaccinating tens of thousands who live or work in the Emerald City, opening its first mass vaccination site at the Lumen Field Events Center.
They held a “soft opening”, giving out just 2,200 vaccines Saturday. But those who managed to get here today say this was a good start.
No matter how they looked or sounded while getting their first shot, most agreed it was nice to get their first shot at Seattle’s first mass vaccination site.
“Safe,” said Estela Suarez, a teacher. “Happy, yes.”
“I’ve had vaccines all my life,” said Charlie Best from Seattle. “I believe in public health, and I think it’s the responsibility of people when it’s available.”
A year ago, the events center was actually the scene of an Army field hospital.
“I think no one anticipated how long this would last,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The new clinic, she says, is a symbol of the progress the city has made in the fight against the deadly virus.
“And I think it’s really important for the people to see that hope is on the way,” she said. “It’s been such a hard year. I mean, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want this to be behind us.”
That feeling is not just in Seattle.
“In Auburn, Kent, we’ve set up mass vaccine sites for thousands of people,” said Dow Constantine, King County Executive. “In Redmond, we have one in partnership with Microsoft; in Renton, in partnership with Kaiser Permanente.”
Swedish Health Services is running the vaccination clinic, doling out just 2,200 vaccines on this inaugural day. Ultimately they hope to do much more.
“Absolutely,” said Renee Rassilyer-Bomers, the clinic’s chief operations officer. “We’ve got the capacity to do 20,000 with four shifts running.”
Still, even some here had to resist their own hesitation, like Gina Simmons, whose job is scheduling vaccines for others.
“Yeah, I kind of put it off for a little bit,” said Simmons. “And then I said ‘you know, it’s time.’”
Of course, many want to get the vaccines. So what about leftover doses? Rassilyer-Bomers says they are trying to avoid have any, but there is a waiting list just in case. Those who sign up must still meet the current criteria, and they must be able to get to Lumen Field in a half hour.
Initially, at least, the clinics will be open on Wednesdays and Saturdays until supply meets demand.
Lumen Field will serve priority areas such Judkins Park, the Chinatown-International District and Mount Baker.
After those groups are served, eligible residents in King County can get vaccinated there.
Initially, about 5,000 doses will be given there a week, but as many as 150,000 people each week – or 22,000 per day – could be vaccinated at full capacity, if vaccine is available.
Those who are eligible can sign up for a notification list and will receive an email when appointments become available at any of the three City of Seattle vaccination sites, including the Lumen Field Event Center. The other two sites are in Rainier Beach and West Seattle.
There are five lines for vaccinations with dozens of stations spread throughout the event center to keep operations orderly. Hundreds of people will man the site through four shifts a day.
First & Goal Inc. is providing the event center rent-free to the city and those coming to get vaccinated can park for free in the Lumen Field garage.
For more information, visit Seattle’s vaccination website at www.seattle.gov/vaccine.