Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Albertsons, Walmart Start Dispensing Vaccines as Idaho Beefs Up Vaccination Rate
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A nurse prepares to administer a vaccine at St. Luke’s Wood River on Tuesday. PHOTO: Anne Jeffery
   
Thursday, February 11, 2021
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTO BY ANNE JEFFERY

GRAPH BY PAUL RIES

Albertsons began scheduling appointments for COVID-19 vaccines at its store in Hailey and elsewhere Wednesday afternoon. The shots start coming Friday.

 
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Idaho reported 458 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday for a total of 166,553. Twenty-one more Idahoans have died of COVID, bringing the death toll to 1,791. Blaine County reported 11 new cases of COVID for a total of 2,083. It lost its 15th resident to COVID this week—a female in her 70s who had been hospitalized with underlying health conditions and had been affiliated with a long-term care facility.
 

And Walmart will begin administering the vaccine at 10 of its stores in Idaho, including those in Twin Falls, Jerome, Burley and Mountain Home, on Friday. Its website was experiencing technical difficulties Wednesday afternoon but appears to be working properly today.

The two chains are expected to receive 5,000 Moderna doses today when the federal government distributes a million doses to states through a new Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

Idaho selected Walmart and Albertsons to distribute the vaccines in the state. Albertsons is scheduling appointments at https://www.albertsons.com/pharmacy/covid-19.html.

Walmart customers who are eligible for the vaccine may schedule appointments at https://www.walmart.com/cp/1228302

Meanwhile, the Apothecary in Ketchum filled 175 appointments targeted for those 70 and older within two hours of the time it learned it was receiving the doses on Wednesday.

The search for doses has led some people to unlikely places—one Hailey couple said they gotten on the waitlist at Gooding Pharmacy. They’re numbers 521 and 522.

Idaho seems to be doing a better job of administering COVID vaccines than it was a couple weeks ago when it ranked among the worst in the nation.

The state has administered 91 percent of the first doses it has received, which means there’s less than one week’s worth of inventory in the state right now, Health and Welfare director Dave Jeppesen told reporters at the state’s annual vaccine update this week.

"The providers are doing a great job of getting those first doses within seven days, which is our goal,” he said.

As of Wednesday, the state has administered at least one dose to 160,360 Idahoans; 43,359 have received both doses.

Idaho is currently getting about 25,000 first doses a week from the federal government.

Jeppesen said the state has reallocated 13,600 doses—6,800 first doses and 6,800 second doses--from Walgreens that went unused in programs to vaccinate those in long-term care facilities. The state reallocated 12,600 first and second doses from CVS last week.

Idaho has only administered 41 percent of the second doses it’s received. But Jeppesen said more than 90 percent of Idahoans are getting their second doses on time.

Jeppesen said the federal government has been 100 percent reliable about sending second doses when they’re due so providers have not had to cannibalize first doses to provide second doses. The state is  currently getting 20,000 second doses a week based on the number of Idahoans who received first doses a few weeks ago.

Jeppesen said Idaho now has 407 enrolled vaccine providers with 46 more in the process of becoming enrolled. Having a wide variety of providers is valuable in getting vaccine to where people are. A medical clinic in Cascade, for instance, is taking vaccines to town of Yellow Pine.

But that means that some providers who were getting a lot of doses are now getting fewer doses as more providers are added.

Jeppesen reiterated that it will take months to vaccinate those 65 and older who became eligible for the vaccine Feb. 1. There are 291,000 seniors in the state, including those in long-term care facilities. About 62,500—or 21 percent—of seniors in and out of long-term care facilities have received their first dose.

The state introduced a new Vaccine Administration Transparency Data dashboard on Monday that should help take some of the mystery out of the distribution and allocation of the vaccine in Idaho.

The original vaccine dashboard focuses on the number of people who have been vaccinated in Idaho’s various counties and health districts.

The new data focuses on the number of doses providers and public health districts have been allocated, along with the number of doses they have yet to administer.

On Tuesday the dashboard showed that St. Luke’s in Boise had distributed 95 percent of the 26,860 shots it had received, and that the Valley Apothecary in Ketchum had administered 100 percent of its 150 vaccines. South Central Public Health District currently leads other health districts, having administered 87 percent of the doses it’s received.

Jeppesen painted a scenario that indicated that someone from Blaine County who gets a vaccine in Twin Falls County would be counted among those in Blaine County who have received a vaccine. But Twin Falls county will get credit for having administered the vaccine.

The dashboard will be updated initially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with plans to go daily eventually.

Jeppesen said the website will continually evolve to provide information that might be helpful to people after one reporter suggested it might be help to show allocations as soon as they are assigned so that people know where to look for vaccines.

Gov. Brad Little said the new COVID-19 vaccine administration transparency data will enable the state to help speed things up if a provider is not administering their allocated doses within a week of receiving them. Providers have 72 hours to report the doses they’ve administered.

“A lot of states are having same issues we are with federal pharmacy programs. Our goal is a fair, safe rapid rollout of the vaccine,” he said. “The Idaho Guard is doing great work around the state and we’re going to make some more Guardsmen available to work all over the state.”

Little said Idaho has been allocated fewer doses than it should based on its current population—some of the census data is old given Idaho’s rapid growing population. And the federal government distributes vaccine based on adult population when Idaho has the second highest percentage of children under 18.

“The demand outpaces supply. We will continue, and I will continue, to press to get what we consider Idaho’s fair share,” he said.

Idaho could see the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in early March, which would bring a welcome influx of vaccine into the state, said Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch.

But trials for children going slower than expected, added State Epidemiologist Sarah Leeds. One Pfizer investigator said it could be another year before we have all the data we need, she added.

The state sent five COVID samples to the Centers for Disease Control for testing, but they were of “insufficient quality” to determine whether any of the mutated viruses are circulating in Idaho. Assume they are, health officials said.

Jeppesen said the state is doing research to find out why some people are hesitant to get the vaccine as it prepares a campaign to promote vaccinations in April or May.

“Right now, we have many, many hundreds of thousands of people wanting the vaccine,” he said. “I think it’s about really understanding what are the side effects and what are the safety protocols followed in clinical trials. There are now hundreds of thousands who have taken vaccine; there have been some side effects but nothing out of normal.”

COVID TOWN HALL TONIGHT

Blaine County will host a Virtual Town Hall on COVID-19 and the COVID-19 Vaccine at 6:30 tonight—Thursday, Feb. 11.

Participants may register for the event at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1164946176516754443. Or, go to www.blainecounty.org, click the green button that says “COVID-19 Resources” and click “Register” in the first paragraph.

Email questions to town-hall@co.blaine.id.us.

 

~  Today's Topics ~


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