How to prepare for outages; and, Vashon still leads in COVID vaccination

Let the big wind last weekend be a warning to get ready.

Strong showing: Vashon COVID-19 Vaccination Level

Vashon residents continue demonstrating a strong desire to get the latest COVID vaccine. That pattern began back when COVID vaccines first became available about a year into the pandemic and it has been true for every vaccine release since, including the latest 2023-2024 version.

Vashonites have achieved nearly double the COVID vaccination rate for mainland King County for the 2023-2024 version of the vaccine, and more than triple the national rate. Figures from Public Health — Seattle & King County show that Vashon residents have a vaccination rate of 24% for the latest version of the vaccine.

By contrast, the zip-code-by-zip-code statistics for mainland King County show rates as low as 4% in some communities. No King County community except Vashon has a vaccination rate above 17%.

The national estimated COVID vaccination rate for the latest vaccine is 7%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Our Vashon seniors have embraced vaccination: the rate for Vashon residents aged 65 and older is 61%. That explains why the island has such a high vaccination rate compared to other areas,” said Dr. Jim Bristow of the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps. “It would be very helpful as we go into the annual season for a COVID surge if younger people would also get vaccinated. Fortunately, COVID rates have declined recently around the country, but they are not zero. The risks of serious disease, including hospitalizations, are real. Long COVID is also a real risk.”

Free COVID Vaccinations

Even though the official pandemic emergency declaration expired in May, most people can still get COVID vaccinations at no charge. Here are a few suggestions to help you get access to COVID vaccinations.

  • The federal Bridge Access Program has made COVID vaccinations free at 20,000 retail pharmacies nationwide. They are primarily available at big chains such as Rite Aid, CVS, Walmart, and others. You can find your closest option here.
  • If going off-island isn’t an option, you may still be covered. Vashon Pharmacy reports that 98% of the people they vaccinate have insurance coverage. The pharmacy collects your insurance information when you schedule an appointment here and handles the paperwork. In some cases, you may have a copayment, depending on your insurance plan.
  • Sea Mar’s Vashon clinic offers COVID vaccinations on a walk-in, first come, first served basis, no appointment required. You do not need to be a Sea Mar patient. The clinic says they do not turn anyone away due to lack of insurance, but there are limits on availability depending on clinic capacity and vaccine supply. The clinic suggests you call ahead to confirm availability, at 206-463-3671.

Open Season to Get Low-Cost Health Insurance

Open enrollment has started for low-cost health insurance, so now is a good time to explore your options to obtain health insurance or change your plan. Access to health and dental insurance has been expanded this year to include undocumented immigrants.

For an easy way to get a handle on your low-cost health insurance options, Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) suggests checking out Washington HealthPlan Finder at

PHSKC also offers a health insurance navigator service that can help you understand your low-cost health insurance options. You can make the navigator connection by calling (800) 756-5437 or visiting online.

Local personal assistance is also available every month from Miguel Urquiza of King County Community Health Services. His next island visit will be on November 15th from 1:00 to 3:00 pm at Vashon Library. Get free bilingual Spanish/English help from Miguel to renew or change your insurance plan, get an ORCA LIFT card, or apply for food stamps (EBT cards).

You can get more information here.

Power Outage Tips

We received some big wind last weekend, and a week before we had thunder, lightning, and drenching rain. That was your storm season alarm bell going off, so let it be a warning to get ready.

A quick web search will get you dozens of checklists to help you prepare for storm season power outages, which on Vashon can last for a few days. Here are just a few.

It’s time to prepare for dining in the dark (but it’s good to note that headlamps or other battery-powered lights are safer than candles). And a well-stocked pantry can make a big difference for a power outage dinner. Here’s a fun take on pantry stocking from the Canadian Red Cross.

Vashon COVID Risk Level: Basic

The COVID hospitalization rate remains below the trigger point for an increase in the risk level of our advice tool. The updated COVID vaccine aims to prevent severe disease and hospitalization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the latest version of the vaccine to everyone six months and older.

Wear an N95 mask indoors in public if you are exposed to COVID, and/or are at risk for health or other reasons, and/or live or spend time with someone at high risk.

Get the updated COVID and flu vaccines, and maintain good ventilation at home and at work. Avoid those with suspected or confirmed COVID.

If you are exposed to COVID, wear a mask in public and avoid contact with those at high risk for 10 days.

Always home-test if you have symptoms. If you test positive, isolate for at least five days and until you test negative. Also check in right away with your doctor about treatment, even if your symptoms are initially mild.

If you are immunocompromised, discuss additional prevention actions with your healthcare provider.

The VashonBePrepared COVID Risk Advice Tool aggregates data in our exposure area, which includes King and Pierce counties. The primary metric evaluated by the Vashon Medical Reserve Corps is the COVID hospitalization rate, because public health agencies reliably report that.