OLYMPIA, WA – A new report from the Washington State Department of Health shows that the vaccine rollout has helped reduce the number of new COVID-19 cases, but also that the vaccination rate will need to increase if the State wants to end the pandemic.
The DOH report found that the number of cases and hospital admissions were down statewide. As of May 20, 31 of 39 counties in Washington had a 14-day case rate of less than 200 cases per 100,000 population. The study contributes to the decline in vaccination efforts: During the two-week period ending May 9, the hospitalization rate of unvaccinated patients 45-64 was 21 times higher than their vaccinated counterparts. Likewise, unvaccinated patients 65 years of age and older were hospitalized 13 times more than patients in this age group who were immunized.
The vaccination was also found to have increased overall immunity to COVID-19, with the DOH estimating that 43.5% of the total population was immune as of May 20.
Other findings of the study include:
- Case rates are declining in all age groups except those 70 and over. The case rate for those 70 and over has remained relatively stable since March.
- Hospitalization rates are falling among patients 20 to 69 years old. As with the number of cases, hospitalization rates for those aged 70 and over have been low and stable for several months now.
- The total number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients was also found to be down as of May 30.
However, some problems remain. The study found that the virus’s reproductive number was around 0.95 in mid-May. Any number less than one means the pandemic is on the decline, but it’s a very slow decline: it means 95% of COVID-19 patients will infect someone else. The number of cases is also relatively high, despite the recent decline.
The DOH says both of these problems can be addressed by increasing the vaccination rate.
“We continue to see positive trends, but a significant proportion of our population is still unvaccinated and vulnerable to COVID-19 as our state nears full reopening,” said Dr Scott Lindquist, head of the interim health. “If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, now is the time to get vaccinated so you can enjoy the benefits of reopening without putting your health and your community at risk.”
To increase this vaccination rate, the state has launched several incentive programs, the most important of which is the vaccine lottery recently announced by Governor Jay Inslee. The lottery begins Tuesday and offers hundreds of weekly draw prizes. Pierce County, which has struggled with a lower vaccination rate than its neighbors, is also offering residents a chance to win a round-trip flight if they get vaccinated at one of the county’s pop-up clinics. .
Efforts are also being made to address accessibility and equity issues. One of the latest is a new DOH “Care-a-van” program, which kicked off this week and brings the vaccine to underserved communities or communities where the vaccine was not readily available before.