OLYMPIA — All Washington residents 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine starting April 15, Gov. Jay Inslee announced.
At a news conference March 31, Inslee said an expected increase in vaccine supply enables the state to open eligibility two weeks ahead of a May 1 target set by President Joe Biden.
Also, Inslee said he hopes full eligibility will help tamp down a disturbing trend of rising cases. He echoed warnings from public health officials across the state who say a recent climb could foreshadow a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
In recent days, the governor had resisted calls to expand eligibility faster, even after a majority of other states did so. Washington now joins California with an April 15 date.
Roughly 5 million Washington residents were eligible for a vaccine as of March 31.
Of those, 2 million people were allowed to get in line March 31 when the state expanded eligibility to everyone in Phase 1B. That included anyone 60 and older, restaurant staff, construction workers, those in congregate settings such as prisons, and people with two or more health conditions.
That leaves an estimated 1.2 million people. They can get in line in two weeks.
Inslee’s announcement isn’t a surprise.
With Washington receiving an increasing supply of doses from the federal government, the state Department of Health shut down an online tool for figuring out if one is eligible for a shot.
The state expects to get 408,730 total doses this week and roughly 711,000 over the next two weeks. But health officials stress that demand is still outstripping supply. This week providers requested 489,690 doses, they said.
In a related development Wednesday, Pfizer announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12.
In a study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15, preliminary data showed there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents, compared to 18 among those given dummy shots, Pfizer reported. As of March 31, Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and older.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.