Washington State Patrol trooper Brian Zillmer receives his COVID-19 vaccine, an example of first-responders in Phase 1A who are receiving the vaccine, not the general public who are eligible. (Courtesy photo/Washington State Patrol)

Only 1,000 vaccine doses available for 42,000 eligible

   WHATCOM —  Healthcare providers across the county are reporting crashed phone lines from fielding thousands of calls concerning COVID-19 vaccines, the county Health Department said Thursday, Jan. 21.
  The urgent message back to everyone: Do not call in to your healthcare provider about vaccines!
  Anyone calling vaccine providers for information about COVID-19 vaccines can expect to wait for several hours, if they are able to get through to anyone at all. This creates challenges for patients needing primary care, who are unable to connect with their providers while phone systems are clogged.
  “More than 42,000 Whatcom County residents became eligible for vaccination on Monday, but in total there are only 1,000 more doses of the vaccine coming to providers this week. There is simply not enough vaccine in our community,” said Erika Lautenbach, director of the Whatcom County Health Department. “We are asking folks in our community not to call their healthcare providers to ask about vaccinations at this time.”
  Instead of calling their provider, people in Phase 1B Tier 1 should wait for their provider to contact them with information about vaccine availability and how to get vaccinated. Many providers are expected to get in touch with eligible patients once they’re able to schedule an appointment. Patients can also keep updated via texts, patient portals and their provider’s website. Vaccine providers and the Whatcom County Health Department will provide more information about how to get vaccinated as the community gets more vaccine.
  Providers in Whatcom County are still working through both tiers of Phase 1A — which is for front-line healthcare workers, emergency first-responders and the residents and staff of congregate-care facilities — even as they are opening up vaccinations to people in Phase 1B Tier 1.
  Local providers had only received a total of about 9,000 vaccine doses as of Jan. 21, and it could take several weeks for people to be able to be vaccinated.
  “We’ve all been really, really patient, for almost a year now — so patient, it hurts,” said Lautenbach. “We’re frustrated, and we know everyone else is frustrated, too. But we have to hang in there, for just a while longer. The end is still in sight.”
  Family Care Network, with many Whatcom clinics, reports this on its website ( “Announcements about vaccine availability will be posted on our website and distributed through other communication channels such as email, portal messages, etc.”