Gov. Jay Inslee cleared the way March 3 for Washington residents to begin receiving the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine this week.
Washington’s first allocation is 60,900 doses, of which an initial 20,000 doses are expected to arrive March 4-5, state health officials said.
The governor authorized its use after a panel of scientists enlisted by Inslee and other Western governors gave a thumbs-up to the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, to reduce coronavirus infections and prevent hospitalizations and deaths of those who become ill.
The panel’s recommendation “gives us further confidence around the safety and efficacy of the J & J vaccine,” Inslee said in a statement. “Like the other two, this vaccine offers strong protection against serious illness from COVID-19, which is critical in our fight against this deadly virus.”
The announcement came on the heels of the governor’s decision Tuesday (March 2) to make teachers, school staff and licensed child care workers immediately eligible for vaccinations.
Leaders of local teacher unions had been pushing hard for educational staff vaccinations for a while, particularly for those that are now, or will soon be, working with students in person.
Earlier this year, Inslee had resisted calls from educators, lawmakers, parents and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to move teachers up the priority list, to speed up reopening of schools.
Inslee’s about-face came hours after President Joe Biden urged governors to get every teacher a dose of vaccine this month.
Vaccinating school employees won’t necessarily mean districts will expand resumption of in-person learning any faster, if at all. Administrators and teachers will need to reach agreements for each step of any expansion.
The federal Food and Drug Administration had issued an emergency use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Saturday.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Work Group, established by California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada, met Monday to review the FDA’s actions and submitted its recommendation to the states’ governors Tuesday night. The work group followed a similar process following federal approvals of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December.
Washington is only getting a third of its allocation of 60,900 doses because that is all the Department of Health requested.
State health officials said they want to figure out how best to integrate its distribution into the statewide vaccination effort before requesting the remainder. They also said they want to learn more of how the federal pharmacy program will be used to support vaccination of child care workers, educators and school staff.
And, they noted, federal officials have said the state will not receive another allocation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until March 23.
Thus far, more than 2 million doses of vaccine have been delivered to the state since mid-December.
As of Feb. 27, there had been 1,917,810 doses of vaccine delivered to providers in the state and 1,676,787 doses that had been administered, according to state health data. The totals include both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
In addition, 179,010 had been delivered to facilities in the federal long-term care vaccination program.