Sunday, April 18, 2021
Idaho to Ramp Up Vaccines as Second Variant Case Reported
The Rev. Kathleen Bean administers ashes during a pandemic Ash Wednesday service at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. PHOTO Becky Smith
Wednesday, February 24, 2021



Idaho identified its second case of the more transmissible South African variant on Tuesday.

No information has been provided so far.

In response, the state plans to begin listing variant cases on its COVID Vaccine website at The information will be filed under its COVID-19 Case, Laboratory and Hospital Data Dashboard.

“We want to vaccinate people as quickly as we can to slow the spread of new variants that have been identified in the state,” said Dave Jeppesen, director of Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare.

Fortunately, the state will see the number of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines coming into the state increase from about 30,000 a week to just over 40,000 this week, as the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program nearly doubles Idaho’s initial allotment of 5,000.

Idaho expects to get 9,580 through that program beginning this week, State Public Adminstrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch told reporters Tuesday afternoon. The shots are administered primarily at Albertsons, including the one in Hailey, and at Walmart, including those in Twin Falls and Jerome.

And Idaho could see shipments of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as the end of next week if that vaccine is authorized this weekend as expected.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine could get approved by an FDA advisory group on Friday, Feb. 26. It would then have to be accepted by the Centers for Disease Control, which will hold an emergency meeting Sunday and Monday.

Johnson & Johnson says they can deliver enough doses to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of March.The company says it will have four million doses ready to ship as soon as it's authorized.

There has been some concern that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine’s effectiveness might be less robust in older people. The state is waiting to see what the Food and Drug Administration recommends about who should take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before deciding whether to recommend that those 65 and older stick to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“We don’t know for sure,” said State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn. “All we’ve had to look at so far is preliminary information from the manufacturer. The FDA could say, ‘We recommend this only for those 18 to 50 years of age. So, we can’t get ahead of them. After the FDA authorizes the vaccine, the CDC will meet and could put its own flavor on it and it may say it performs better in one subgroup. We have to let them do their thing.”

Hahn added that 16- and 17-year-olds currently working in hospital or nursing homes can avail themselves now of the Pfizer vaccine. Trials for younger children are still being conducted and, ironically, the pace of the trials could be slowed by a decrease in the number of COVID cases in the United States.

“We hope to approve a vaccine for children by end of summer or fall but it’s very uncertain now,” she added.

Idaho has administered 93.9 percent of the doses it’s received, making it the fifth best in the country at getting shots in people’s arms, said Jeppesen.

That’s all the more remarkable when you consider that Idahoans have been scheduling individual  vaccine appointments with providers, rather than going through mass vaccination clinics.

Of 290,000 seniors 65 and older, 112,700 or 39 percent have received at least one dose.

All 30,000 doses bound for Idaho last week were delayed by wintry weather across the nation. Usually shipped on Monday or Tuesday, some of those doses were shipped on Friday and were received in Eastern Idaho on Saturday, said Sarah Leeds, who heads up Idaho’s Immunization Program. Many doses will arrive in Idaho this week, in addition to those that were scheduled to be sent this week.

Jeppesen said the state is constructing a one-stop statewide vaccine pre-registration system for the tens of thousands of Idahoans who have been frustrated about having to check websites multiple times a day or continuously call various providers to try to schedule a vaccine.

The site, which the state hopes to have up by early March, would allow someone to type in their  information. A provider in their area would contact them when there are available appointments, Jeppesen said.

“People can still reach out to providers on their own if they want,” he said. “We’re just trying to provide a method for those who don’t want to have to check multiple websites every day.”

Hahn said just over 200 doses have been reported wasted. But she expects that number to go up since providers are not always able to pull a full six doses out of the Pfizer vial.

“Sometimes that sixth dose cannot be drawn out with a syringe. When that happens, it will be reported as wasted,” she said.

So far, more than 44 million of 331 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose and 20 million have received both.

But the Biden administration is on pace to administer 100 million vaccination shots in 100 days, despite limited supply and wintry weather that delayed shipments to all 50 states. Providers inoculated 1.7 million shots a day last week as 15 percent of the nation’s pharmacies began administering vaccine via the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. And the supply of vaccines is expected to increase significantly in the next month.

In Idaho 219,161 people have received at least one dose and 97,272 have received both. So far, 5,055 Blaine County residents have received at least one dose, and 1,502 have received both.



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