On Dec. 23, International Community Health Services (ICHS) was among the first of the area’s health centers to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and begin vaccinating frontline health workers.
Reactions were jubilant, as staff saw the end of a challenging year and the nation’s largest health crisis, come into sight.
“The shot has no pain at all for me,” said Ping Yang, acupuncturist, first to be delivered the vaccine at the International District Clinic. “At last I don’t have to worry, because I’m seeing patients every time and no one knows who is carrying what. The vaccine is good for me, my family, my community and hopefully I can visit my parents, they are 97 years old.
Community members can be confident that the vaccine is safe and that it works, said Dr. Asqual Getaneh, ICHS chief medical officer. “I enthusiastically rolled up my sleeve to be vaccinated and urge everyone to do the same. It is the best way to look out for yourself, your family and your community. I will now be able to spend Christmas with my 89-year-old father with additional protection and without great anxiety. This is how we stop people from dying and return to normal life.”
The vials of the Moderna vaccine are a milestone in ending the pandemic. Initial supplies will be limited and given to groups at highest risk, such as health care workers and people in long-term care facilities, said Getaneh. The next priority groups will be essential workers with higher risk of exposure, adults with underlying health conditions and adults 65 years and older. Eventually there will be enough for everyone who wants a vaccination. She urged patience, as well as offered a reminder there will still be a need to wear a mask, maintain distancing and practice good hygiene for some time.
In February 2020, ICHS was the first community health center in the nation to see a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. As a result, ICHS has helped set best practices guiding the response of the nation’s nearly 1,400 federally qualified health centers, which collectively serve 30 million people, most of them low income, immigrants and refugees.
UPDATED on 1/20: We are currently in Phase 1B/Tier 1 of Washington state’s vaccine rollout. Tier 1 includes all people 65 years and older and people 50 years and older who live in multigenerational households. This is in addition to those eligible during Phase 1A, which includes health care workers at high risk for COVID-19 infection, first responders, people who live or work in long-term care facilities, and all other workers in health settings who are at risk of COVID-19.
Thank you for your interest in the COVID-19 vaccine. We are currently offering vaccine appointments to ICHS patients and community members who qualify through the DOH Phase Finder tool.
Eligible ICHS patients. Your care team will contact you by phone to schedule an appointment at one of our COVID-19 vaccination events. Please do not contact our call center about scheduling.
Eligible patients and community members. A limited number of appointments are open on a first-come, first-served basis through our online appointment page here. We suggest you check back frequently.
We each have a responsibility to ensure that those around us are protected and we help reduce COVID-19 transmission by being vaccinated. However, it’s important to remember that even after vaccination you must continue to wear a mask around others, stay at least 6 feet away, avoid crowds and wash your hands often. We must use every tool to prevent infection until enough people have immunity to the virus to prevent its spread. This is the only way we can halt the pandemic and ensure the health of our family members, friends and neighbors.
The DOH has released a timeline that will help you understand which priority group you belong to and when it will be your turn to get the vaccine. This timeline is just an estimate and could change based on state and federal vaccine supplies. See the estimated timeline.
Not getting a vaccination is more than an individual choice, it has a much wider impact on everyone’s health and wellbeing. It will make it harder to achieve herd immunity, a level of immunity that will prevent the virus from circulating in the community, and protect us all. Without immunization, you place yourself at greater risk of severe illness or long-term health issues from COVID-19. When you get the vaccine, you also help protect people in high-risk groups that might not be able to get vaccinated themselves.
The two vaccines approved by the FDA work similarly. They cause the body to develop fighter cells called antibodies. A genetic code of a small part of the virus (the spike protein) is injected into the body; this is taken up by cells, which reproduce the protein. These are then recognized by the body as foreign proteins. The fighter cells work to get rid of the proteins, while creating a memory bank of these proteins to defend against future infection.
Nearly all COVID-19 vaccines being studied in the United States require two shots. The first shot starts building protection, but everyone has to come back a few weeks later for the second one to get the most protection the vaccine can offer.
Vaccine safety is a priority. All COVID-19 vaccines must go through a rigorous and multi-step testing and approval process before they can be used. They will only be approved if they pass safety and effectiveness standards. Many people took part in this testing to see how the vaccines offer protection to people of different ages, races and ethnicities, as well as those with different medical conditions. Vaccines will also be monitored for safety once they are given.
Your arm may be sore, red or warm to the touch. These symptoms usually go away on their own within a week. Some people report getting a fever, fatigue, headache, chills, or muscle and joint pain. This is a natural response and a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what it is expected to do. It is working to build protection to disease. Vaccines will also be monitored for safety once they are given.
No, the vaccine will not cause the COVID-19 illness. The vaccine is made up of only a part of the virus (the spike protein), just enough for the body to recognize is as a foreign material to produce antibodies.
COVID-19 vaccines are being tested in large clinical trials to assess their safety. However, it does take time, and more people need to be vaccinated before we learn about very rare or long-term side effects. That is why safety monitoring will continue by an independent group of experts with the CDC. They will provide regular safety updates for our immediate action.
We don’t know how long protection lasts for those who get infected or those who are vaccinated. What we do know is that COVID-19 has caused very serious illness and death for a lot of people. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer choice.
Both the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and from Moderna have two doses. After only one dose your protection might be around 50%. The second dose provides a boost that gives strong, long-lasting immunity. After both doses, both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have 94% and 95% efficacy, respectively.
You will still need to practice precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing, handwashing and other hygiene measures until many more people are vaccinated. This is because there’s still a chance you could pass the virus to someone else even though you don’t get sick yourself.
If you’ve had COVID-19, you have natural immunity that may last months to years but is not indefinite. People who have had COVID-19 may be advised to get the vaccine because they could still be reinfected and could still possibly infect someone else.
Yes, you can receive COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding. Even though pregnant and breastfeeding women were not included in the clinical trials, experts support vaccination to prevent infection.
No, while the vaccine is made of a genetic material, it does not interact with the genome. It encodes for specific proteins (in this case the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus), which then gets decoded by the ribosome (protein making organelle/part of a cell) located outside of the nucleus where our genome is housed. mRNA in the cell is also degraded relatively quickly limiting long-lasting impact.
International Community Health Services (ICHS) is bringing convenient, free COVID-19 testing to the Eastside. On Dec. 15, ICHS opens the first high-capacity COVID-19 test site on the Eastside at Bellevue College, expanding efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in east King County and along the I-90 corridor as local cases continue to spike. The test site is operated by ICHS and hosted by Bellevue College, with support from King County and the City of Bellevue.
People are strongly encouraged, but not required, to register for a testing appointment here. Testing is free and open to anyone, regardless of insurance or immigration status. Operating hours are Monday through Saturday, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
“We are so pleased to work with King County and the City of Bellevue to open this large-scale testing site serving the Eastside and its diverse community members,” said Teresita Batayola, ICHS CEO. “Expanded testing is to the benefit of all Eastside residents during this critical stage of the pandemic. ICHS multilingual staff and providers will play an important role making sure no one is left behind because of language or culture – and all of our friends, neighbors and family members are connected to much-needed health care and testing.”
“I thank International Community Health Services and Bellevue College for their assistance in setting up this new testing site on the Eastside,” said Dow Constantine, King County executive. “This holiday season, the greatest gift we can give our friends and loved ones – and ourselves – is good health and peace of mind. We must remain vigilant to bring this virus under control, and bring our community and economy back stronger than ever.”
The Eastside is home to a number of different language communities – 13.3% of households in Bellevue are limited English speaking compared to six percent of households overall in King County from 2014 to 2018. ICHS regularly provides free on-site and remote interpretation in over 50 languages and dialects at its clinics and its multilingual staff are experienced in meeting the needs of a diverse patient community. The Bellevue College testing site adds to drive-thru testing ICHS currently provides at its International District Medical-Dental Clinic in Seattle.
“It is through these strong partnerships from community providers like ICHS that makes these sites possible,” said Patty Hayes, director of Public Health – Seattle & King County. “ICHS has a long history of providing culturally relevant care and this expertise will be extremely valuable for the diverse language communities we hope will access this site.”
“The new, free testing site at Bellevue College will be a valuable resource for our diverse community, especially as we work together to minimize and ultimately overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lynne Robinson, City of Bellevue mayor. “I want to thank Public Health – Seattle & King County, Bellevue College and operator ICHS for their partnership and for making this testing site a reality. It is also critical that Bellevue residents continue to follow Public Health’s guidance; wear a mask, stay home when you can, avoid indoor gatherings, and quarantine and get tested if you feel sick.”
The new test site is located at Bellevue College, 2645 145th Ave SE, Bellevue, WA 98007. The entrance is on 148th Ave SE. Drive-thru and limited walk-up testing is available. The test site is available via the 221, 226, 228, 245, and 271 bus lines.
Support for isolation and quarantine
If you have COVID-like symptoms or have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, Public Health – Seattle & King County urges you to avoid contact with others and get tested immediately. Stay home and away from others while you are waiting for test results.
Anyone who tests positive should isolate immediately. For those without a safe place to do so, King County isolation and quarantine sites are available to help people through a difficult situation and reduce risk of transmission. This is especially important for those living with a family member who is elderly or medically fragile, or people experiencing homelessness. Call the King County COVID-19 Call Center (206) 477-3977 to see if isolation and quarantine services are right for you.
Now you can enroll, renew or change your health plan through Washington HealthplanFinder. There are more plans to chose from, including a new, affordable health plan option called Cascade Care. Take time to compare plans as you may qualify for a low-cost one.
Nov. 1 – Open enrollment begins
Dec. 15 – Last day to register for a health plan that begins Jan. 2021
Jan. 15 – Last day to register for a health plan that begins Feb. 2021
ICHS provides free help to our patients and for anyone seeking to enroll or renew their health insurance. Schedule an appointment with one of our multilingual outreach and enrollment navigators. They can explain your health plan options and assist you with enrolling.
Our staff speak languages including: Amharic, Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Toisanese), Korean, Russian, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese.
Call (206) 788-3700to schedule an appointment. We are only accepting appointments by phone.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately hit nursing home residents it has drawn attention to the benefits of the nation’s PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) programs, which allow frail seniors to “age in place” in their own home instead of a nursing home. Enrolled seniors are safer from infection because they are supported to thrive at home.
When COVID-19 began spreading in King County, “PACE made a series of quick and abrupt decisions,” said Dr. Kannie Chim, ICHS PACE medical director. After weeks of declining visits, on March 9, in the interest of patient safety, Legacy House closed group activities. “The team had to pivot to reaching people through other means.”
Staff made weekly phone calls to check on participants’ and share information. Knowing that many lacked safe transportation options, PACE staff began delivering food coordinated by PACE dietitians so participants could continue sheltering in place. The PACE team also increased home visits to ensure seniors received the care they needed to stay healthy.
“Doctors, physical therapists, nurses, almost everyone comes to your home to check on you,” said Janet. “I’ve had home safety checks and they are very careful.”
PACE staff also taught Janet how to connect to telehealth services. “Everyone in the program is motivated and responsive to patients,” she said. “I like it, especially during this difficult period.”
Healthy aging at home
PACE programs are individually designed for each participant and managed by a team. Care is interdisciplinary—a social needs analysis and investigation into individual health barriers are part of the program. Care is culturally competent, able to meet participant needs with respect to cultural traditions, language and preferences. The goal is to allow individuals to safely live in their community for as long as possible. When that is no longer feasible, PACE can coordinate transitions that keep the participant centered in his or her care.
“It’s team-based,” said Dr. Chim. “At PACE, we say ‘Let us take all of this and put it under one roof and take care of it. Let us help, we are going to coordinate this.’”
Mei and her husband live in the Chinatown-International District (C-ID) neighborhood of Seattle. Before the pandemic, PACE drivers would pick up Mei’s husband three times a week and take him to ICHS Legacy House for medical care, physical therapy and activities. The couple continue to live in their C-ID apartment while Mei’s husband receives the primary care he needs, staying connected to multiple services to help keep him healthy.
PACE team members include doctors, therapists, nutritionists, drivers, behavioral health specialists, social workers and administrative staff to coordinate an individualized care plan.
Many ICHS PACE participants take part in adult day services and social activities at ICHS Legacy House. They may also receive care within their own home that ranges from therapy and medical visits, to meal deliveries and home safety assessments.
To be eligible for PACE, participants must be 55 or older and in need of nursing home level of care as defined by Washington state.
Most participants “join the PACE program needing a little help,” explained Dr. Chim. “You are living at home and can get around and still do your daily activities, but you are just getting by. We want to help participants not only survive, but thrive.”
Setting the PACE ahead
During the pandemic, long-term care facilities have been especially vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID-19. Seniors face compounding challenges, including heightened risk of infection, transportation barriers, limited access to telehealth and other difficulties.
“Offering well-coordinated, community-based health care, socialization and living support is a priority throughout this pandemic and in the future,” commented Teresita Batayola, ICHS President & CEO. “For us, PACE is the future.”
ICHS, in partnership with Kin On Health Care Center (Kin On), is taking a bold step to create a better future for elders. Established in 2015, the partnership, called Aging in PACE Washington (AiPACE), will pioneer the nation’s first aging-in-place program for the Asian Pacific Islander community. A $20 million capital campaign is underway to create a 25,000-square-foot PACE center on the north lot of Pacific Tower on Beacon Hill.
Getting your flu shot is more important now than ever. Call 206.788.3700
The Washington State Department of Health strongly recommends everyone get vaccinated to avoid serious illness during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is likely that both COVID-19 and the flu will be circulating at the same time. By getting the flu shot, you help keep our communities healthy because you are lowering the chance of exposure for the people around you, especially those who are unable to get the flu shot themselves.
Stop by one of our pharmacies
If you are between the ages of 19 and 64, come to the pharmacy during regular business hours at our International District, Holly Park and Shoreline clinics. Walk-ins accepted. Appointments are encouraged. Make an appointment by calling the pharmacy:
Holly Park: 206-788-3563
International District: 206-788-3708
SEE a primary care provider
Ask about getting a flu shot during your next visit or schedule a separate time to come in. New patients are always welcome.
We’re here to help make it safe and easy
No cost for kids and with most insurance
All children in Washington may receive flu vaccines, and other recommended vaccines, at no cost through age 18. Flu vaccine is a covered benefit provided at no cost every year through most insurance plans for adults over the age of 18, and is covered by Medicare part B.
International Community Health Services (ICHS) is among health centers nationwide to be recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) with quality improvement awards totaling more than $117 million.
The awards recognize the highest performing health centers as well as those that have made significant quality improvements from the previous year.
ICHS received a grant award of nearly $160,000 and was recognized as a Health Center Quality Leader for achieving the best overall clinical performance among all health centers. HRSA has named ICHS a Health Center Quality Leader every year since 2014.
ICHS was also awarded as a Clinical Quality Improver for demonstrating at least 15% improvement for each quality measure from the previous year. ICHS’s use of technology to help patients access high quality care and its team-based approach were also recognized with awards in the Advancing Health Information Technology and Patient Centered Medical Home Recognition categories.
Federally qualified health centers provide primary care services for underserved communities through funds from the HRSA Health Center Program. They deliver care to about one in 11 people nationwide who are low-income, uninsured or face obstacles to getting health care, HRSA Administrator Tom Engles said in a statement. “These awards will support health centers as they continue to be a primary medical home for communities around the country,” he said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, health centers have been on the frontlines, providing more than 3 million tests, according to HHS. “These quality improvement awards support health centers across the country in delivering care to nearly 30 million people, providing a convenient source of quality care that has grown even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “These awards help ensure that all patients who visit a HRSA-funded health center continue to receive the highest quality of care, including access to COVID-19 testing and treatment.”
International Community Health Services (ICHS) helped highlight the value of the nation’s health centers during National Health Center Week, an annual national celebration to raise public awareness and legislative support, held from Aug. 9 to 15.
Staff, patients and state lawmakers joined ICHS to observe this year’s theme, “Lighting the Way for Healthier Communities Today and in the Future,” which honored frontline providers, staff and patients who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a series of virtual meetings with Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA9), Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA8) and Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA1), ICHS CEO Teresita Batayola shared the innovative steps ICHS has taken to address the needs of the community in the face of extraordinary challenges. She underscored the urgent call for Congress to act to secure reauthorization of mandatory funding for community health centers by October.
“Our sustainability is being threatened as we bring great value,” said Batayola. “Community health centers are critical in ensuring access to health care and information, outreach and engagement. The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, but especially for people who have low incomes or have lost their jobs or health insurance.”
After King County emerged as an early epicenter of the health crisis in March, ICHS quickly responded with new models of care, including telehealth and in-home visits, prescription deliveries, drive-thru testing sites and testing targeted to specific populations. ICHS has also served as a strong voice in advocating against anti-Asian stigma and bias.
ICHS has struggled with PPE shortages and decreased demand for primary care and preventative services, as patients shelter at home and avoid in-person health visits out of fear. This has led to reduced revenue. An infusion of federal funding – both emergency and long-term – is critical if ICHS and the nation’s community health centers are to continue to meet need and demand.
“It’s a really important thing to have health care access for everyone,” said Beth Weitensteiner, assistant medical director at the ICHS Holly Park Clinic. Weitensteiner joined other ICHS staff members, patients and board members to express gratitude for ICHS and its promise of affordable health care in a series of YouTube videos celebrating National Health Center Week. “Clinics like ours are the clinics that are on the front line, making sure that everyone has affordable, good access to health care.”
National Health Center Week festivities also included staff appreciation lunches and patient appreciation events at ICHS’s full-service clinics in the International District, Holly Park, Bellevue and Shoreline. Check out highlights here on Flickr.
On June 24, 2020, International Community Health Services (ICHS) released the following statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, outlining our 10 demands for police reform and our commitments to fighting systemic racism.
We are outraged and saddened by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks. Their deaths are endemic to the crisis of police brutality and structural racism in this country. We also remember and honor the lives of our Black neighbors and community members who were killed by police here in Washington: Charleena Lyles, Manuel Ellis, Che Taylor, Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens and many others.
As public health advocates and as a health center dedicated to serving our communities and promoting health equity for all, we are committed to challenging racism and the system that upholds it. We stand in solidarity with those calling for racial justice, police accountability and criminal justice reform. We stand in solidarity with our Black family members, colleagues, friends and communities to say enough is enough. Black Lives Matter.
ICHS reaffirms its birthright as an organization founded to assure access to quality health care for those who need it. We recommit ourselves to dismantling systemic racism that manifests as health inequities and police violence as well as anti-Blackness in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in which we are rooted.
“In recent weeks, the U.S. has seen nationwide protests demanding justice and the end of police killings of Black Americans. These protests have further illuminated the long standing systemic racism that exists in America. But we know that racism is deeply embedded. As a community health center, we see firsthand its impact on the health of our communities. As an organization dedicated to health equity, we commit to challenging racism in our police departments and working with our community partners on bold steps forward.”
– Teresita Batayola
ICHS President and CEO
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the well documented health disparities that stem from systemic racism and the implicit and explicit biases in testing and delivery of care. As health care workers, we embrace justice as one of the four pillars of biomedical ethics – the others being autonomy, non-maleficence and beneficence. We all have a responsibility to look introspectively into our own implicit biases.”