Sunday, April 18, 2021
State to Open Vaccines to Younger Idahoans
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St. Luke’s Wood River employees tested those who thought they had COVID-19 in a pop-up tent in the early days of the pandemic.
   
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

GRAPH BY PAUL RIES

Idaho public health officials announced Tuesday that they are speeding up Idaho’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, opening it up to people ages 45 to 64 no later than March 15.

The vaccine will be available to people ages 55 to 64 for a two-week period beginning March 15. The first week will be reserved for people in that age group with high-risk health conditions that put them at risk for severe COVID illness. The second week eligibility will be extended to everyone in that age group.

 
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Idaho reported 481 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday for a total of 173,790 cases since the pandemic started. The state has lost two more souls to coronavirus for a total of 1,892. Blaine County reported just one new case of COVID for a total of 2,194.
 

No later than March 29 vaccine eligibility will be opened to those ages 45 to 54. Those with high-risk health conditions will be able to get it the first week. Then it will open to everyone else in that age group.

The schedule for those ages 16 to 45 has yet to be determined.

45,000 Idahoans have registered on the state’s new registry since it opened on Friday. Despite a large number of seniors not being vaccinated, demand is beginning to decline, Jeppesen said.

The change comes as vaccine appointments have gone unfilled, especially in pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Walmart administered just 29 percent of its 14,000 doses this past week, according to Idaho’s vaccine transparency data; Albertsons administered 59 percent.

Fifty-five percent of those 65 and older have had at least one shot, but that's below the 60-plus percent of those 65 and older across the nation.

“We still have huge demand for the vaccine across the entire state, said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, Idaho’s public health administrator.

Walgreens has been asked to join Albertsons, Walmart and Cardinal Pharmacies in Idaho’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. So far, 50,830 doses have been administered through that partnership. And the state will continue to get 10,000 first doses a week through that program, in addition to about 45,000 weekly doses of Moderna and Pfizer.

Idaho is seeing small increases each week in the number of Pfizer vaccine doses being provided. Moderna’s allotment is holding steady, and the state is still awaiting more Johnson & Johnson vaccine after getting 13,300 doses in the initial shipment.

The state would have to double or triple the number of vaccines it can administer to reach President Biden’s projection of being able to vaccinate every adult who wants a vaccine in May, said Sarah Leeds, who heads up Idaho’s immunization program.

But Shaw-Tulloch said she’s been told that the number of vaccines Idaho receives could change significantly in a month’s time. If that happens, the state would have to have more mass vaccination clinics and enlist the help of National Guard and others.

About 60 percent of Idahoans have either gotten at least one dose of vaccine or are anxiously awaiting one, according to polls. Twenty percent are interested in getting a vaccine but waiting to see how others do with it. About 20 percent evidence reluctance to get it.

Shaw-Tulloch said the state recognizes that every region of the state has different beliefs about the vaccine. Idaho State University is working with community health workers to understand some of the reasons for vaccine hesitancy. It has, for instance, learned that some Hispanic people believe that the vaccine may cause infertility.

The state plans to do a public service announcement addressing hesitancy in April. The vast majority of people are hesitant over questions of whether the vaccines are safe and their side effects, said Dave Jeppesen, director of Idaho Health and Welfare.

Health official believe between 80 percent and 85 percent of the population will need to be vaccinated to have the herd immunity that would greatly cut the spread of coronavirus, said State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn.

“But I’ve even heard the Center for Disease Control’s Dr. Walensky say 90 percent, which made my heart drop because the higher the percentage the more work we have to do.”

Gov. Brad Little noted that the state has tragically lost close to 1,900 of its residents “to this new, dangerous and aggressive disease.”

“At least 173,000 Idahoans have been infected. Thousands have been hospitalized. Some will have to deal with longstanding health effects from COVID-19,” he added. “But now more than 284,000 Idahoans have received the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. We have turned a corner in our pandemic fight, and I believe the worst part is behind us. That said, we must remain vigilant. We have a way to go before we can return to life as normal.”

 

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