OLYMPIA, WA — The next phase of Washington state’s vaccination program will be coming sooner than previously thought.

Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah announced Wednesday that he has ordered the state Department of Health to speed up vaccinations, with the goal of entering the next phase of vaccine distribution sometime in the next few days.

There has been mounting criticism over recent weeks of the country’s slow rollout of vaccinations. Shah says Washington is taking that criticism to heart.

“It has not been enough,” Shah said. “We’ve got to do better, and we are going to do better.”

Currently, Washington is in Phase 1A of vaccine distribution, meaning the vaccine is only available for first responders, workers in health care settings, and residents of long-term care facilities.

Once enough people in that group has been vaccinated — again, sometime in the next few days, according to health officials — the plan moves to the first tier of Phase 1B, “Phase 1B1.” That phase allows for vaccinations for anyone 70 years old or older, or those 50 years old or older and live in multigenerational households.

(Washington State Department of Health)
(Washington State Department of Health)

To clear the path for Phase 1B, DOH leaders are urging any remaining unvaccinated health care professionals to round out Phase 1A by getting their shot as soon as possible.

“You need to get your vaccine, and you need to get it now,” said Michele Roberts, the state’s lead vaccine planner.

As of the DOH’s update Wednesday, Washington state has received 624,975 total doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. By the end of the day Monday, 211,660 doses have been administered, though that number includes some patients who have received both doses of the vaccine. To reach maximum effectiveness, both vaccines require two doses taken several weeks apart.

Health officials did show some concern about vaccine availability going forward. Shah says that, while the state has a clear idea how many vaccines will be shipped to Washington over the next week, the situation beyond that remains murky, and that recent announcements from the federal government may disrupt some vaccination plans.

While the State DOH adapts to the federal government’s shifting advice, they’ll also have to contend with another challenge: a recent rebound in COVID-19 transmission. After several weeks of decline, daily case counts appear to be on the rise once again, particularly in Snohomish, King, Pierce and Yakima counties.

(Washington State Department of Health)
(Washington State Department of Health)

“We are not flattening out. We are continuing to rise,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state epidemiologist.

That spike in transmission has health officials warning everyone: the vaccine may be on its way, but residents still need to be careful, and continue to follow pandemic safety guidelines like wearing masks, avoiding social gatherings, and frequently washing hands.

Related: Washington’s Next Coronavirus Vaccine Phase: Here’s What To Know

This article originally appeared on the Bonney Lake-Sumner Patch