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Teachers Up to Bat for COVID Vaccine While 65-Year-Olds Wait On Deck
Tom McLean draws blood from Erica Thorson Tuesday as part of a follow-up for the Blaine County Antibody Research Study done in May.
Wednesday, January 13, 2021



Idaho teachers and child care workers are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine beginning today under an accelerated vaccine distribution plan announced by Gov. Brad Little Tuesday afternoon.

And those 65 and older could be eligible for vaccines as soon as Feb. 1.

Idaho reported 1,034 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday for a total of 151,273 since the pandemic started. Another 12 Idahoans have died of COVID-19 for a total of 1,556 deaths.

Little told reporters during a virtual press conference Tuesday that Idaho is administering the vaccine faster than the national average. And he plans to accelerate the pace, building up provider capacity.

The state learned Tuesday that the federal government plans to release all the doses it has, rather than hold some back. That will increase the state’s allotment from 20,000 doses a week. But by how much no one knows at this point.

“We’ve got a lot of pivoting and planning to do over the next few days, the next few weeks,” said Sarah Leeds, who heads up Idaho’s Immunization Program.

The state should receive funds that Congress allocated at year’s end on Jan. 18, which should also assist with vaccinations, said Dave Jeppesen, director of Idaho Health and Welfare.

Blaine County recorded 11 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday for 1,638 total.

Little said Tuesday that the state would adopt the recommendation of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory committee to open up the next phase of the vaccine rollout to teachers, frontline workers and Idahoans ages 65 and older.

Teachers and other school staff and some other front-line workers will be prioritized between Jan. 13 and 31. And those 65 and older will be allowed to receive the vaccine some time between Feb. 1 and 15. The number of people in the next rollout involves 500,000 Idahoans—nearly a third of Idaho’s population.

“The 65 and older population is enormous and there is still work actively being done to build up capacity among our providers to take on this population,” Little said.

St. Luke’s Wood River officials learned of the new plans Tuesday afternoon. Hospital staff will be involved in vaccinating teachers but will have to ramp up to do that. The hospital had just announced plans to vaccinate at-risk health providers such as dentists and pharmacists on Monday.

“We are awaiting a green light from health districts and our IT will need to do some work on the scheduling ability,” said Joy Prudek, pubic relations manager for the hospital. “Lots to work through--a very dynamic situation--but we are excited to be able to assist with vaccinating additional members of the community!”

South Central Public Health District, also, is working to finish up with those in Tier 1 of the original vaccine plan before moving forward.

Some districts are ahead of us because they have more providers helping to distribute the vaccine,” said Brianna Bodily, public information officer for SCPHD. 

 That said, the district created a form Tuesday afternoon for schools to fill out to indicate how many staff members in each school would like to receive the vaccine. As soon as the district finishes vaccinating health care workers, dentists and pharmacists, it will use that information to set up clinics for schools.

“It's important to note that we are still not taking sign-ups for the vaccine. We are working with employers and administrators to set up clinics for each business/facility/team/school. If we get to a point where we need to ask individuals to sign up (perhaps when we reach the age tier for individuals over 65 years old) then we will send out a notice to make sure people know,” she added. 

 The decision to move those 65 and older came as the Centers for Disease Control announced it was going to urge states to expand the availability of vaccines to anyone older than 65, along with anyone 16 and older who has underlying conditions that put them at greater risk of severe disease.

The CDC had originally put those 65 and older much further down the list. But, criticized for their slow rollout, CDC officials acknowledged that too many doses have been wasted because of the narrow constraints of who to administer the vaccine to.

Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed that the CDC’s rigid guidance on who should get the vaccines first has slowed the rollouts.

The new timeline for getting a vaccine in Idaho:

JAN. 13-31:

First responders, including firefighters, police, coroner and medical examiners, Idaho Fish and Game and USDA law enforcement officers, adult and child protective services, child welfare workers, community food, housing and relief service workers, including home care providers who are employed by a care facility and who provide care in more than one home.

Pre-K-12 teachers and staff and child care workers

Correctional and detention staff

FEB. 1-15:

Adults 65 and older

Food and agriculture workers, including food processing workers and USDA processing plant inspectors

Grocery, convenience store and food pantry workers

Idaho National Guard

Manufacturing workers

Public transit workers

U.S. Postal Service workers


Those ages 16 through 64 with medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19

Essential workers not included in the previous groups


The general public 16 and older

(COVID-19 vaccines are still being tested in youth under 16).

Idaho’s Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said the state doesn’t ever anticipate it will be fully through one group before it starts with the next group.

Since mid-December more than 33,000 long-term care facility staff and residents and healthcare workers have received vaccines. To date, Idaho has administered 38,891 doses—5,692 of those as required second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

By the end of this week, Idaho expects to have received 71,175 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 84,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine—or, 155,175 total doses.

Johnson & Johnson officials announced Tuesday that they hope to apply for emergency use authorization of their COVID-19 vaccine by the end of January. If approved, they should have millions of doses available by the end of February. And their vaccines require only one dose.

“This vaccine is an important step to getting us back,” said Shaw-Tulloch. “We’re feeling very good about the progress we’ve been making, and I’m thrilled to see the excitement Idahoans have in receiving those vaccines. But it’s still not time to let our guard down. We need to wear our face coverings and stay six feet apart.”

In other news:

Idahoans who want to volunteer to help with vaccination efforts can sign up at www.volunteeridaho.com.

Idaho’s new COVID-19 Vaccine Data Dashboard, which can be accessed at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov, shows the total number of people vaccinated by county (Blaine County has 338 residents who have been vaccinated) and public health district. In an effort to be transparent, it also shows how many doses have been shipped to each county so providers and the public can compare doses shipped versus doses administered.

The dashboard is updated only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.




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