A CVS pharmacist prepares a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 26 in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Mass COVID-19 vaccination site coming soon to Auburn

The King County health department is close to finalizing its plans for a mass vaccination site in Auburn.

“We are waiting for confirmation … and we will have more details shortly,” Gabriel Spitzer, a spokesperson for Public Health — Seattle and King County, said Jan. 25.

Jerry Thorson, Auburn’s director of emergency management, said the city expects to have a vaccination site in place within two or three weeks, if not sooner.

The plan, Thorson said, is to combine a testing and vaccination site at one place. Thorson, who has been the city’s “point person” on the planning, has been coordinating with outside agencies and working with Public Health and every city department to make it happen.

The site itself has not been released, Thorson said, but it will be similar to the testing site at the General Services Administration (GSA), and likely with three or four additional lanes and three or four sets of fences or awnings.

“I believe it will still be a drive-up location. We’re not looking for a building for this. We just want to get the cars through as quickly as we can. People will make their appointment, pull up, check in, get the vaccination and drive right out. We’re trying to make it as high-capacity as possible,” Thorson said.

When vaccines become available, Thorson said, people may use the state Phase Finder application to determine when their group is eligible for the test. Then they can go to their private provider, or to a pharmacy, or to one of the large-capacity vaccination sites that will soon pop up throughout the county.

“If they’re in a long-term care facility,” Thorson said, “there are some discussions and efforts to try to get vaccinations to go out from a mobile perspective, like a van to those long-term care centers so they don’t have to try and package everyone up and move them to a vaccination location.”

Thorson said there should not be a vaccine cost for the city, though the city will deploy police officers and public employees to the site to help with traffic control and management.

“I don’t believe the city will be spending any money on vaccines, which are coming from the state,” Thorson said.

Spitzer explained how many shots Public Health hopes to administer every day.

“Our first high-capacity vaccination sites are expected to be able to administer 500 doses a day, with hopes of ramping up to 1,000-2,000 a day once the supply increases. The limited number of doses from the federal government continues to be the main bottleneck,” Spitzer said.

Before any of that happens here, however, the movers and shakers have to solve some problems. Just as they did before setting up the GSA testing site, they’ll have figure out how to get people in and out and ensure there is enough room for staging.

As far as the vaccinations, Thorson said, “we’re struggling with the same things everybody else is: when will the vaccines be available for those locations? How do we get the information out? How do we get the proper people to get the vaccine at the right time?”

As soon as the COVID-19 testing site at GSA got going, Thorson said, the city of Auburn shifted its attention to vaccinations.

Then, when the government began to roll out vaccines, everyone from Mayor Nancy Backus to emergency management staff began to work with Public Health to set up a site in Auburn.

“That was a big part of the issue for the testing site,” Thorson said. “We had to find a site that was large enough, not only to host the functions there, but traffic was also an issue. So there are logistical issues like that.”

One of the things Thorson said he has come to appreciate the most are the many partnerships out there “working so hard to make this happen.”

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