First COVID-19 Vaccines given to frontline staff at DSHS Facilities

Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Brown administering a COVID-19 vaccine to a Western State Hospital employee.
Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Brown administering a COVID-19 vaccine to a Western State Hospital employee.
Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Brown administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a Western State Hospital employee. Photo courtesy of WSH.

LAKEWOOD — Department of Social and Health Services employees eligible for the first round of COVID-19 vaccines got their first dose today, Wednesday, Dec. 23 at Western State Hospital.

DSHS worked with its partner agency, the Department of Health, to apply through the Emergency Use Authorization agreement approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month to receive vaccine for staff who are at the greatest risk of exposure to the deadly virus.

Vaccines are voluntary for staff and DSHS leadership see this as the first step towards getting to the other side of this pandemic that has ravaged the world for the past 10 months.

“We are excited that we are able to provide this added layer of protection for our staff who are at the greatest risk of exposure to the virus due to their work,” said Cheryl Strange, Secretary for DSHS. “Our staff have been so resilient and dedicated to reducing the spread of the virus to our clients, themselves and their families. From the work by direct-care staff at our facilities, to our staff within our Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, ensuring individual providers have the right PPE to care for our clients and working to get staff at long-term care facilities vaccine doses; to our warehouse staff who are keeping track of every mask and bottle of hand sanitizer, making sure there’s enough to go around — I am honored and amazed every day to be a part of this team.”

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Western State Hospital received 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine which will be shared among DSHS staff who work at the agency’s Behavioral Health Administration’s 24/7 facilities in Pierce and Thurston counties. DSHS also plans to administer vaccines to front-line staff at the agency’s 24/7 facilities overseen by its Developmental Disabilities Administration across the state as well as Eastern State Hospital.

“The effort to coordinate the rapid distribution and immunization of our high-risk staff at our facilities was no small task,” said Sean Murphy, DSHS Assistant Secretary for the Behavioral Health Administration. “I am proud of the teamwork that our nurses, pharmacy, infection control, logistics and command staff have demonstrated to get this massive endeavor off the ground.”

Despite the vaccine finally being available, DSHS will continue its efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by continuing to use PPE, good hand-hygiene practices, social distancing and having staff who are able to telework continue to do so until at least June 2021.

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