WSU, Whitman County planning for mass vaccination sites

Vaccination site request not yet approved by state; currently two mass vaccination clinics in Whitman County



Chris Skidmore, interim director of Whitman County Public Health said he is hoping to scale up the clinics to meet the need for about 1,000 to 1,500 vaccinations per day.

ANDREA GONZALEZ, Evergreen reporter

WSU could possibly serve as a mass vaccination site as Whitman County moves through the vaccination phases.  

University officials have submitted a request to Washington state asking permission for the university to set up mass vaccination clinics on campus. The request has not been approved, said Phil Weiler, WSU vice president of marketing and communications. 

The county has already set up two mass vaccination clinics. A third will be set up this weekend. Right now, they are focused on vaccinating individuals included in Phase 1, said Chris Skidmore, interim director of Whitman County Public Health.

“We’re just in the very beginning stages of doing vaccinations in the state of Washington,” Weiler said. 

There are about five approved enrolled providers in the county that are allowed to administer vaccinations, Skidmore said. 

Skidmore said the county has been collaborating with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and WSU, two of the largest employers in the region, to help out with the volunteer effort. 

Volunteers include retired medical professionals, local providers and WSU students, he said. 

Every Friday, the county is notified about the number of doses they will receive, Weiler said. Typically the clinics take place on Saturdays. 

It appears as if Washington state is prioritizing counties that have had the worst COVID-19 outbreaks, Weiler said.

Weiler said he expects that the volume of vaccines available will be low, but will grow as time progresses. About two weeks ago, the county received about 100 doses. 

WSU could potentially set up vaccination clinics at its different campuses across the state, he said. 

The county will not be disclosing the location of the mass vaccination clinics to the general public because they do not want people who are currently ineligible for a vaccine to show up, Skidmore said. 

 For now, Whitman County is scheduling people in the 1A and 1B tiers. In Washington state, there are about 1.7 million people in the 1B tier, he said. 

“It’s going to take a lot of management of folks’ expectations because we’re not going to move through this phase probably as quickly as most people would like,” he said. 

Skidmore said both Whitman County and health care providers have been experiencing high call volumes regarding vaccine requests. 

There were between 600 and 700 people that got vaccinated at the first clinic, he said. When people do not show up to their appointment, people on the backup vaccination list are notified and able to fill the spot. 

Skidmore said he is hoping to scale up the clinics to meet the need for about 1,000 to 1,500 vaccinations per day. 

The county has been able to fund some of the mass vaccination efforts from CARES Act funding, he said. However, there is still not a lot of funding available and providers have been “eating the cost,” he said. 

Skidmore said the county is waiting for more funds to become available.

“We’re kind of in a holding pattern right now until the money hits the bank,” he said. “Hopefully that money will be available very soon so we can start really standing up some robust vaccination efforts here.”