“It’s not just about you”: WA Secretary of Health says vaccinations allow return to normalcy

SPOKANE, Wash.–We know now what it will take for Washington to fully reopen.

If 70 percent of Washingtonians at least start the vaccination process, the state will fully reopen no later than June 30.

People of color have a long history of lacking trust in vaccines and public health, but Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said hesitancy extends beyond that because of conspiracy theories and politics.

“This is why it’s challenging,” Dr. Shah said. “It’s all the above and more.”

Dr. Shah said the state is most focused on making vaccinations easier for those who are on the fence about it or just haven’t had the time.

“They’re working or they’re worried about their families or they’re worried about the next meal on the table,” Dr. Shah said.  “We just have to do everything we can to remove any barriers to make it easier for those individuals to get vaccinated.”

The state set a goal in late April of 90,000 shots per day but has gone in the opposite direction, now averaging roughly 46,000 per day.

A key reason for that is younger people, who feel they’re healthy enough to not get vaccinated right now.

“It’s not just about you, it’s about the community and the people around you,” Dr. Shah said. “Getting vaccinated isn’t just to protect yourself, it’s protecting everyone.”

People younger than 50 make up 35 percent of COVID-related hospital visits in Spokane over the last month. People in their fifties account for another 20 percent.

Then, there’s the possibility of being a COVID long-hauler.

“So it’s not like ‘hey I just get it, it’s no big deal, I’m done after a couple of days or a week or so,'” Dr. Shah said. “You can actually have symptoms that last you for years or even a lifetime; why would you even want to take that chance?”

Dr. Shah said the top benefit of being vaccinated is your own protection, but the incentives are now stretching beyond that.

The incentives of returning to life as we once knew it.

“It’s also about freedom, it’s about doing things in the community, it’s about being out and about,” Dr. Shah said.