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We are quickly approaching the promising milestone of having the first COVID-19 vaccines available to our community. I am very excited about how close we are to launching a safe and effective vaccine that can prevent serious illness and death due to COVID-19. Beginning with UW Medicine staff working in areas of direct contact with COVID-19 patients, the positive impact on our community will be enormous.

My message today outlines rollout plans for the distribution of the initial supply of vaccines that we anticipate receiving. Following authorization of the vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the guidance outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first wave of vaccinations will prioritize healthcare personnel at risk of infection, individuals living in long-term care facilities and the healthcare workers in those settings.

Based on this direction from the CDC, UW Medicine will offer COVID-19 vaccinations using a phased approach that utilizes prioritization. Additionally, because of our broader role in the community, we have agreed to assist in administering the COVID-19 vaccine to other front-line healthcare workers and first responders who are not able to obtain it on their own.

We believe these vaccines are safe and strongly encourage our employees to receive the vaccine when eligible to allow our healthcare workers to continue to safely care for our patients during the surge. The more members of our UW Medicine community who are vaccinated, the safer it will be for our patients, staff, faculty, trainees and students. We also will be incorporating a modified declination process similar to our influenza vaccination campaign with the expectation that all members of our community will participate in the vaccine process.

Priority Group 1
The first group of UW Medicine community members eligible based on prioritization are employees in the following areas:

  • Units that provide care for patients with COVID-19 (nurses, environmental services, providers, therapists, other staff)
  • Emergency departments (RNs, providers, environmental services, therapists, flight crew, other staff)
  • COVID-19 testing sites, labs and vaccination staff
  • COVID-19 screeners and safety officers

Priority Group 2
In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington State Department of Health, this first group will be quickly followed by UW Medicine employees in the following areas:

  • Acute care or ICUs
  • Outpatient and specialty clinics
  • Other patient facing roles such as lab and radiology
  • Facilities/engineering in hospitals and clinics
  • UW professional students who work in the hospitals and clinics in patient facing jobs

Based on the estimates received from the state, we anticipate having sufficient vaccine to give these first two priority groups their first dose of vaccine by the end of the year. We anticipate having further instructions for these two priority groups within the next week, with vaccine clinics opening the week of December 14. Note: Residents, fellows and health profession students who work with patients are included in the above priority groups.

As a UW Medicine community member, if you do not fall into the above categories, you will still have an opportunity for vaccination in the coming months. We will be communicating additional details to you and our patients as well as updating the COVID-19 website when we have more information on the number and timing of the vaccine doses that will be available to us.

Vaccine administration sites will be located at UWMC – Montlake, UWMC – Northwest, Harborview and Valley Medical Center. We will be looking to fill shifts seven days per week as well as in evening and holiday hours to ensure we are able to reach all staff in groups 1 and 2. Keep an eye out this week for more information from your individual entity on how to volunteer to help administer these vaccinations.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation as we work to make vaccines available to everyone in our community based on national guidance. As always, please continue to mask, physical distance, wash your hands and stay home with any COVID-like symptoms to prevent the spread of this virus. Although it will take many months, I am hopeful that the prospect of vaccination for everyone will allow us to finally turn a corner in this pandemic.


John Lynch, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Infection Prevention & Control
Associate Medical Director, Harborview Medical Center
Division of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, UW School of Medicine