OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state is opening up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all residents age 16 and older starting on April 15, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday.
The federal government had directed states to make all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccination by May 1, but most states had earlier plans, with more than a dozen opening eligibility to all adults this week.
Also Wednesday, New Mexico announced it would open vaccine eligibility next week to everyone 16 years of age and older, and Pennsylvania said every adult there will qualify starting April 19.
Inslee had previously resisted expanding eligibility too quickly, saying he wanted to ensure those most at risk were vaccinated first and noting eligibility didn't guarantee vaccination right away and would depend on supply.
But he said Wednesday the federal government's assurances of increased allocations, plus concerns about rising cases in many parts of the state, led to the decision to open up eligibility sooner.
Inslee's announcement came the same day 2 million more people, including restaurant workers and those 16 and older with two or more underlying health conditions, became eligible for vaccination in the state.
As of Wednesday, about 5 million of the state’s more than 7.6 million residents are eligible for vaccination. An additional 1.2 million people who are 16 and older will be added to those eligible in just two weeks.
More than 3.2 million doses of vaccine have been administered to date, and more than 16% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated, including those vaccinated by the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. More than 27% have received at least one dose of the vaccines that require two shots, by Pfizer and Moderna.
The U.S. has recorded more than 30.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 551,000 deaths. There have been more than 340,000 cases in Washington state, and 5,237 deaths.
For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.