Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Vaccine Shortfall Slows Vaccination Effort
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Husband and wife Scott and Jenn Bradshaw have been working in the ICU together during the pandemic—Scott as a respiratory therapist and Jenn as an RN. “Getting vaccinated means doing our part to protect ourselves and others from getting COVID,” they said. “We are in this together.”
   
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTO BY JOY PRUDEK

GRAPH BY PAUL RIES

It wasn’t the way Jay and Louise Noyes wanted to start off their week.

 
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Idaho reported 437 new cases of COVID on Tuesday for a total of 166,095. Thirteen more Idahoans have died in the past two days for a total of 1,780.
 

But there it was: An email stating that their vaccine appointments scheduled the week of Feb. 15 and 22 at their local pharmacy had been cancelled because South Central Public Health District had allotted only half of the doses expected.

“Were they stolen? Hijacked by billionaires? Lost?? Unfrozen? This is appalling,” said an understandably frustrated Jay Noyes.

The Noyes’ experience, and that of others who shared their fate, is evidence of the mounting frustration that has accompanied the rollout of vaccines for 269,000 Idahoans 65 and older, which started Feb. 1.

Trying to secure vaccines has been like playing a scavenger hunt as people spend hours at computers going from one website to another looking for an elusive dose. And there seem to be few winners.

 
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Blaine County has reported 38 new cases of COVID since Sunday for a total of 2,072. Blaine County has lost another resident to COVID for a total of 15 deaths since the pandemic was first identified here in March.
 

One man sped to Ketchum following an appointment in Twin Falls on Monday, forsaking the errands he had planned to take care of, after he was notified he had been awarded a cancellation that day. There was no vaccine awaiting him; the computer had erred.

Others have complained about how many hours they have sat at the computer going from website to another searching for appointments.

Vaccine doses hijacked by billionaires or pirates really wouldn't be the weirdest thing to happen during this pandemic, says Brianna Bodily, public information officer for South Central Public Health District, which oversees Blaine County. But the reasons for the cancellation of appointments is much less interesting, she added.

 It’s a simple case of overbooking in a time when demand far outstrips supply.

“We cannot provide extra vaccine for facilities if they overbook. With that in mind, we don’t set any appointments more than a week in advance to make sure we have enough vaccine to fill those appointments. We encourage other providers to do the same. Some have; some haven’,” she said.

“SCPHD does not guarantee vaccine doses until we know exactly how many will be coming in, so it is impossible for us to guarantee a dose amount more than a week out.” 

 Adding providers in recent weeks has compounded the problem, even though those additional providers should make it easier for people to find a provider close to where they live.

“Our region went from only a handful of providers to dozens that all need vaccine for their clients. Just a few weeks ago we couldn't get enough providers on board to help distribute the vaccine we were receiving, now there isn't enough to go around,” said Bodily.

Here’s how the process works:

South Central Public Health District has been receiving between 2,700 and 2,800 of the 21,000 to 25,000 doses the state of Idaho has been getting from the federal government each week.

It must spread that among 50-plus providers in eight counties, none of whom are getting what they request. In fact, Bodily said, most are getting far, far less than what they request, including the SCPHD’s own clinics.

“Last week alone we had requests for over 40,000 doses of vaccine from the providers in our region. We understand the demand is there. We just don’t have the vaccine to appease it,” she said.

 To distribute the vaccine, the SCPHD divides the supply by the number of residents in each county, then provides that percentage of doses to the county.

For example, Twin Falls County contains roughly 43 percent of the district’s population so 43 percent of the doses given to SCPHD stay in that county. Minidoka, Jerome, Cassia, and Blaine counties all have approximately the same population sizes, each constituting between 10 percent and 12 percent of the district’s population.

“Because demand is so high in every county, we are not currently taking length of waitlists or demand into consideration. We know all providers’ phones are ringing off the hook. Should one county start to have difficulty filling appointments, we may distribute less to that county, but we don’t see this happening any time soon,” Bodily said.

 After setting aside a set amount of doses for each county, SCPHD considers how many doses each provider can offer, or what they call "throughputs.” Facilities that can offer 500 appointments a week will receive more vaccine than facilities that can provide 50 to ensure all available vaccine is going out as quickly and efficiently as possible.

 That said, even if you can provide 500 doses, you probably won't get that many. If Blaine County is allocated 1,000 doses and there are 10 providers in the county offering the vaccine, they will all get varying amounts but none of them will likely get 500 doses since the demand is so much higher than the current supply. 

 There was enough vaccine to fit the need in the early going when health care workers and nursing home residents were being vaccinated. And there was adequate vaccine when teachers, dentists and other qualified next, Bodily said.

“If you combined all of those priority groups, you don't come near the number of people who qualify because they are over 65 years old,” she said. “We also had fewer providers back then, so delays were mostly caused because we didn't have enough people who were qualified to provide vaccine. Now, the only delay is in receiving enough vaccine for our region.”

 One local pharmacy has done a good job of announcing on its website how many doses it receives each week, while reminding viewers that it is currently vaccinating only those 75 and older. This week, however, it received no vaccine doses, and it wasn’t the only local provider that was bypassed.

 St. Luke’s has avoided the need to cancel appointments by making sure it only schedules appointments for the vaccine it has, said Joy Prudek, information officer for St. Luke’s Wood River. The only appointments that are booked out weeks in advance are for those receiving their booster shots three or four weeks after their initial dose.

 But it, too, did not receive the allocation it had requested this week and so was unable to add appointments this week. It did, however, manage to add more than 500 appointments just before opening up to those 65 and older.

 Bellevue residents Don and Laurie Yeager were beaming on Sunday after taking part in a vaccination clinic for more than 300 people at the hospital. It was well run, they said, in part due to a vast number of volunteers. They and the others are already booked to return on March 7 to get their booster shot.

 “And we will hold our first big community second dose clinic this weekend with 300-plus people. That’s good news,” said Prudek.

 Prudek encouraged people to check with health providers to make sure they are eligible for the vaccine before trying to schedule an appointment.

“Individuals 65+ have been shown to be the group more likely to be very sick, hospitalized and who have the greater percentage of deaths, so please help us get them vaccinated,” she added.  “People may be confused or not agree with the CVAC prioritization but given the limited vaccine, we ask they seek to understand what group they are in and abide by it.”

SCPHD estimates there are 4,000 Blaine County residents 65 and older. But that likely does not include the second homeowners who have spent a large part of the pandemic in Sun Valley and who plan to get their vaccine here.

Arizona officials have suggested that they should receive more vaccine doses during winter given the snowbirds that reside there during winter. But no one can deny that it’s important to have everyone—no matter where they call their primary home—vaccinated to cut down the rate of infection.

“I volunteered yesterday at our clinic and it’s wonderful to see members of our community, especially the older, who are more vulnerable, get vaccinated,” said Prudek.  “Seeing a positive like that helps cope with the frustration concerning the long wait.

“Also. we have had 3,500 people vaccinated in the county as of Monday—331 have received both doses. So, we’re making progress, even if it’s not as fast as any of us want.”

Those who are frustrated scrolling through websites each day can sign up for SCPHD’s waitlist, Bodily said. But don’t expect your name to be called immediately.

“We pull as many names as possible from that list, but we won't promise an appointment until we know we'll have the vaccine. We don't receive enough vaccine, just like every other provider, so it may be weeks before you get a call to set an appointment. But if you don't want to call around every day looking for an appointment, you can sign up for our waitlist and we'll reach out to you as soon as there is a spot open.”

 

 

~  Today's Topics ~


Idaho Wants Proof You Live or Work Here if You Want a Vaccine

Idaho to Ramp Up Vaccines as Second Variant Case Reported

Zoom into Your Pandemic Garden
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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