Sunday, April 18, 2021
Vaccinated Infections Extremely Low Among Idahoans
Volunteers created a walking path for pandemic strollers through the Howard Preserve Tuesday evening following the completing of river restoration there. PHOTO: Wood River Land Trust
Thursday, April 1, 2021



Only a half a percent of Idahoans have tested positive for COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated.

Only 97 of the 278,000 Idahoans who have been fully vaccinated have felt the effect of what experts call “breakthrough cases,” said State Deputy Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner.

Yikes! Idaho reported 460 new cases of coronavirus--a big jump from cases in the 200s--on Wednesday. Eight more Idahoans have died of COVID during the past two days for a death toll of 1,962. Blaine County has gained 10 new cases in the past two days for a total of 2,266.

All had pre-existing conditions but just three were hospitalized, she said. Most had no symptoms and were found to be positive when they were tested for reasons other than illness. Eighty percent of those who did experience illness complained of symptoms similar to an allergy or mild flu.

Fifty three percent of the 97 received the Pfizer vaccine and 47 percent received the Moderna vaccine. The first Idahoans to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are just now considered fully vaccinated so there’s no data to tell how those with that vaccine will fare, said Turner.

“No vaccines are 100 percent effective so we expected we would see some individuals be exposed and contract the virus,” Turner told reporters on Tuesday.

Turner said not all of the breakthrough tests have been sequenced to determine if the new variants are involved. Half are on their way to the lab to be sequenced or have been sequenced. It can take two weeks to sequence.

So far, however, evidence suggests that vaccines are effective against the variants, she said.


The state will get 82,190 doses of vaccine each week starting next week, said Dave Jeppesen, director of Idaho Health and Welfare.

“That’s a significant increase, primarily driven by the large increase in Janssen vaccine becoming available,” he said.

That represents 62,630 first doses for the state's allocation and 19,560 first doses for retailers like Albertsons and Walmart, which are involved in the federal retail pharmacy, receive each week.

The more vaccines the better since all Idahoans 16 and older are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine nearly a week ahead of  Monday, April 5, when they had been slated to become eligible.

South Central Public Health District, which oversees Blaine County, has opened vaccines to anyone 16 and older effective immediately.

The Central District Health Department, which oversees Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties, also made vaccines eligible for anyone 16 and older this week. The Panhandle, North Central Public Health and Southeastern Idaho Public Health districts opened eligibility the last week of March.

The Biden administration has found that Americans prefer to get vaccinated in their local pharmacies rather than travel to a mass vaccination site for the shot. So far, the retail pharmacy program involves 21 chains and 17,000 stores and it has been able to administer more than a million doses in a single day of late.


Sixteen- and 17-year-olds are only authorized to get the Pfizer vaccine at this time. But Idaho’s Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said she doesn’t anticipate any issues with 16- and 17-year-olds being able to find Pfizer vaccines.

Studies are still examining the efficacy of vaccines in those younger than 16. Pfizer said a study of nearly 2,300 American youth between the ages of 12 and 15 showed no cases of COVID-19 among the fully vaccinated. Moderna is expected to release the results of its studies soon.

Children represent 13 percent of the COVID-19 cases documented in the United States. They’re less likely than adults to get seriously ill. But at least 268 American youth have died from COVID-19 and more than 13,500 have been hospitalized.

“Vaccines are the best shot we have to keep our kids in the classroom, save jobs and save lives,” Jeppesen said.

If a 16- or 17-year-old wants a vaccine against their parents' wishes it's up to the healthcare provider to determine if the minor can consent to their own care, said Shaw-Tulloch.


Providers are utilizing a variety of methods to take vaccines to people, said Shaw-Tulloch. The National Guard and EMS are taking them to homebound individuals. Health districts have conducted clinics for farmworkers at large farms. Shots also have been dispensed at drive-through clinics, shopping malls, churches and the Elks Lodge.

Dr. Christine Hahn, a state epidemiologist, said that health officials are concerned that some people may skip that second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, given that the first dose offers 85 percent protection. But people do really need that booster shot, she said.

The state has had 926 wasted doses—less than .1 percent of total doses delivered, said Sarah Leeds who heads up the state’s immunization program. There are a number of ways they might be wasted: Vials are broken on arrival, a pharmacist may drop a vial or people fail to show up for their appointment and they can’t find someone to substitute.

“Wasted doses are still incredibly low,” she added.

Christine Hahn said Idaho is not close to herd immunity yet. And herd immunity has not been fully defined, as in crossing a finish line at a certain number. Estimates have gone from needing 70 percent or the population to be immunized to 85 percent.

“We are having conversations about how to track it. And we are not having conversations in a vacuum—we don’t want it to look different in Colorado from Idaho,” she said. “It’s important, though, because when we reach it we could recommend changes in behavior, such as the need for less social distancing.”




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