Vaccination eligibility groups announced by the Department of Health

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Washington State Department of Health

Bailey Tomlinson, News Editor

An announcement outlining a timeline of groups that will be eligible for the vaccination in upcoming months was made Wednesday, Jan. 6. This timeline is phase B of Washington’s vaccination plan as described by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

“It’s important to note that we are not moving into phase 1B right now. Our state is still in phase 1A of vaccinations, and will continue to be for the next few weeks,” the DOH said. “While phase 1A is still the priority, we hope that the release of phase 1B guidance will help facilities, counties and individuals plan for the months ahead. Once we’re ready to start phase 1B, we will let our communities know how and where to get [the] vaccine.”

Group B1, estimated to be vaccinated beginning mid-January, includes all people aged 70 years or older. People 50 years or older are also eligible if they are living in multigenerational households.

Group B2, estimated to be vaccinated through February, includes essential workers in congregate settings aged 50 years or older who are considered high risk for COVID-19. These work settings include grocery stores, K-12 schools, childcare, corrections, prisons, jails or detention facilities, public transit, firefighting and law enforcement. K-12 schools, jails and detention facilities were specified to only include staff in this group.

Group B2 also includes people, staff and volunteers of all ages in congregate living settings, such as correctional facilities, group homes for people with disabilities and people experiencing homelessness that live in or access services in congregate settings.

Group B3, estimated to be vaccinated through March, includes people aged 16 years or older with two or more comorbidities or underlying health conditions. 

Group B4, estimated to be vaccinated through April, includes essential workers in congregate settings under 50 years old who are considered high risk for COVID-19. These work settings are the same as in group B2. 

Future phases will have eligibility information released “soon” according to the DOH.

The DOH also announced an online tool called Phase Finder, which allows Washington residents to determine their eligibility group for the vaccine. According to the DOH, it’s currently being tested and will launch Jan. 18. 

“Phase Finder will be available in multiple languages and will be used to confirm individual eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine,” the DOH said. “Vaccine providers and immunization programs will also be able to use Phase Finder to do assessments of vaccine need by zip code.”

Group priority was decided by working closely with the Governor’s office, along with using federal guidance and input from around 20,000 Washington residents through focus groups, interviews, and surveys, the DOH said.

“Vaccine prioritization decisions are complex, but based in a need for equitable distribution,” Washington State Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah said. “Our priority has been to get the vaccine to high-priority people first.”

A vaccine dashboard, similar to those that have been displaying COVID-19 statistics through the pandemic, will be launched by the DOH in partnership with Microsoft sometime next week, the DOH said. It will include vaccine ordering and administration data, including breakdowns by county and demographic, and is estimated to be updated three times a week.

A fact sheet on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine has also been released, and should be provided by healthcare providers to those getting the vaccine before administering it. It will be available in 35 languages as of next week, the DOH said.

More information, including an FAQ, can be found at the DOH’s website.