With the development and now distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel is growing brighter. Yet, there is a long way to go and we cannot let our guard down.

To beat this virus, we must remain vigilant and continue to practice virus safety measures such as wearing masks, maintaining at least six feet of separation particularly indoors, wash your hands, sanitize commons surfaces, and avoid large groups especially indoors.

These virus safety measures are more important than ever as new more infectious virus variants arise. The situation has become a scientific and pharmaceutical race to keep Covid-19 vaccines ahead of the new virus variants. Evidence shows the need to deploy current vaccines as quickly as possible.

At this point, about 5.5 percent of Washington state’s 7.6 million residents have gotten at least one shot. The state has administered over a half a million vaccine doses thus far and that total includes first and second doses.  More than one million shots are now being given across the U.S. each day.

Yet, demand still is outstripping supply. At this time, Washington has been receiving close to 100,000 doses per week from the federal government, but vaccination sites still need more to meet demand.

The good news is the vaccine supply is increasing for several reasons. First, it was recently announced that states will be getting a 16% increase from the federal government in coming weeks. Next, over 500 hundred million doses have been procured by the federal government and will be available by summer.

In addition, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is in trial testing and likely to be approved by the FDA within a month, and the AstraZeneca vaccine is not far behind. These vaccines will join the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine already authorized by the FDA and being distributed, adding to the available vaccine supply.

With the improving vaccine supply and more vaccination sites, the goal in Washington state is to have a majority of residents vaccinated by Labor Day Weekend this year. The state Department of Health continues to update their Covid-19 website as conditions evolve. Right now, those eligible for vaccinations include those in Phase 1A and 1B.

Phase 1A – health care workers at high risk for COVID-19 infection, first responders, people who live or work in long-term care facilities, and all other workers in health settings who are at risk of COVID-19.

Phase 1B – The vaccine is available to anyone 65 and older, and all people 50 and older who also live in a multigenerational household.

Keep in mind that about 80% of Washington state’s Covid-19 fatalities are among those 65 and older. As the vaccines are deployed in arms, more people in the state will be next in line.

Are You Eligible For The Vaccine?  State health has a helpful phase finder tool to help you determine when you will be able to get your shots. The website has been busy, so state health has a couple of phone numbers to also help at 800-525-0127 (press #) and 888-856-5816.  Your primary care provider can also assist you. In addition, Snohomish County has a Covid Hotline at 425-339-5278.

Find a Vaccination Site – The state health website also has a link to the ever changing list of vaccination sites. The website is an ongoing work in progress as it attempts to keep up to date on evolving vaccination site locations and availability of vaccine.

Make An Appointment – Making an appointment at vaccination sites has been a challenge as well thanks to the high demand. People have found the best online results have been during non-peak hours like overnight or early morning hours.

Once Vaccinated – After you get your first shot, continue to wear your mask and all other virus safety measures. Depending on the vaccine, you will get your second shot in three or four weeks. Full protection will not kick in until five or six weeks after your first shot, or a few weeks after the second shot.

And there is more – What is not known yet is whether a vaccinated person might still be able to spread the virus, even if they do not feel sick. It also remains unknown if the vaccine protects against infection or only against illness.  In addition, more scientists indicate Covid-19 vaccines will likely need periodic boosters, similar to the annual flu shot in order to deliver a boost of immunity tailored to closely match emerging variants.

Another big question is when to reopen schools. School districts are primarily following state health school guidelines. Yet, each school district is determining how and when to reopen their schools.

Addressing this Covid-19 virus is an evolving situation. So monitor the state health website and other health oriented websites such as Snohomish County Health for the latest information. As more people get vaccinated, the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel will get brighter.

North Sound Meteorologist Ted Buehner worked more than 40 years for the National Weather Service (NWS) from 1977 to 2018. He is now an Everett Post Media team member. Together with Everett Post Weather Minute Podcasts, he provides morning and afternoon commute traffic and weather updates on both KRKO and KXA Radio, and sports reporting on KRKO.