Sequim COVID-19 vaccine site draws hundreds

Vaccination demand reached a tipping point in Sequim, as hundreds waited, sometimes for hours, to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

On Thursday, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, Jamestown Family Health Clinic, and other county partners launched a mass COVID-19 vaccine distribution event at the Trinity United Methodist Church and nearby Carrie Blake Park.

As word spread, hundreds waited for hours. Some, even camped out the night before. Sheila Martin's husband got wind of the event, and decided to take their camper, and park it at the site the night before.

"He went the night before at 7:30 p.m. We have a camper that has a bed and a heater and a port-o-potty," said Martin. 

While Sheia's husband camped out, Sheila came back the next morning and saw cars for miles.

"The need is enormous. They just have keep pumping up the supply plans," she said. 

Sheila and her husband being the first in line that day. She said she's feeling hopeful for the future.

"It's exciting to think traveling is ahead, and grandkids and everything," said Martin. 

While it's unclear how many people showed up, the number of cars from the start of the line to the tail end reached all the way to the freeway.

"I heard it was clear out to Highway 101, and it was backed up maybe three or four miles," said Brent Simcosky, director of health services for the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe.

During the event, law enforcement had to regulate the number of people arriving.

"The police made the decision to go car-to-car and count how many people and stop it at 500. We closed down the street in front of the park and went three lanes down the street and started moving people as fast as we could. They told me they turned away 1500 cars," said Simcosky. 

Despite the wait, however, many were grateful to wait. Maxine Blood, got to the site early in the morning that day.

"So from the time we got there, 6:20 a.m., it was several hours, but we had coffee and orange juice so we were fine," said Blood. 

Maxine, who is 86 years old, said she's had no side effects. 

"I feel wonderful. I feel wonderful. I wanted this done and accomplished so, so much," she said. "The experience was kind of out-of-this-world. And my arm is not sore at all."

Looking ahead, officials will cap the number of vaccines given out to 600 daily. They also said that volunteers and medical personnel will arrive earlier and start processing paperwork starting at 8:00 a.m. on distribution days, said Simcosky. 

The location in Sequim plans on providing vaccines for the next six months, of course, depending on supply, according to Simcosky.

"We are doing 130 vaccinations an hour and we think we'll get it up faster than that. Possibly 150 an hour," said Simcosky. We think we can get to herd immunity by vaccinating 50,000 people. That's our goal."

In Sequim, officials plan on distributing the vaccine every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Another vaccine event is taking place on Saturday at Peninsula College from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This is a collaboration between Forks Community Hospital, Quillayute Valley School District, the City of Forks and the Forks-Beaver Fire District. 

The vaccines for these events are only available for people considered in Phase 1B (Tier 1), those 70 years old or older, or 50 and older if they live in a multi-generational household.

The tribe recognizes that they are about a week ahead of the rest of the state in vaccine distribution, but felt the community was in need.

"We felt it was ready to head to the next group. We don't want to be sitting around, doing this forever," said Simcosky.