Two COVID-19 vaccines have been approved in the United States, and distribution of the vaccines is underway to staff at Washington hospitals, including Federal Way’s St. Francis Hospital.
The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Washington on Dec. 14. The two-dose vaccine is given 21 days apart and is the first vaccine to be distributed to frontline essential workers.
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup on Dec. 20 and is expected to arrive in Washington this week, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
The CHI Franciscan system, which includes St. Francis, was one of the first hospital systems in the state to received Pfizer vaccine shipments on Dec. 14. CHI may begin to receive initial doses of the Moderna vaccine as soon as Dec. 22 or Dec. 23, according to a CHI spokesperson.
“We have extensive steps in place to begin vaccinating employees this week. We are following federal, state and public health guidelines to support equitable allocation of the vaccine among our health care workers,” said Cary Evans, vice president of communications and government affairs for CHI.
The criteria for selecting which staff members or departments receive the vaccine first factors in consideration for those most at risk for exposure to COVID-19.
A total of 2,500 vaccines were distributed across the CHI system last week, including to staff at St. Francis beginning Dec. 17, according to a CHI spokesperson. This week, CHI is expecting to contribute 3,000 vaccines.
In early December, National Public Radio (NPR) reported that the federal government recently released hospital-level data that includes how many inpatient beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.
Using that data, NPR and the University of Minnesota’s COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project created a new tool, which shows that across King County, about 10 percent of hospital beds on average are occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Within King County, Federal Way’s St. Francis is among the most strained of local hospitals with one of the highest percentage rates dealing with 20% of its beds being occupied by victims of the virus and 81% of its beds occupied overall, as of Dec. 21. St. Francis has a total of 124 beds.
The 7-day average daily intake of COVID-19 patients at St. Francis is 25.
As of Dec. 20, Federal Way has had 599 positive COVID-19 infections in the previous 14 days, with an overall total of 4,583 since Feb. 28. Of those positive cases, there have been 288 hospitalizations (rate of 6.3% of all positive cases) and 53 deaths (for a rate of 1.2% of all positive cases).
Enumclaw Courier-Herald Editor Ray Miller-Still contributed to this report.