Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Blaine County Edges Up Toward Herd Immunity
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There’s more urgency about vaccinating children with the news that they are more susceptible to the COVID variants that have infiltrated the United States.
   
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

GRAPH BY PAUL RIES

There’s been 109 cases of fully vaccinated Idahoans getting infected with COVID-19, and only four of those involved a variant.

All four involved the two California variants, Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

 
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Idaho reported 346 new cases for 182,182 on Tuesday. Two more Idahoans have died of COVID, bringing the death toll to 1,974. Nine more Blaine County residents have tested positive for a total of 2,284.
 

Only .03 percent of the 319,000 Idahoans who are fully vaccinated have gotten infected—"a very small, very small number,” she added.

Of those 57 had received the Pfizer vaccine, 49, the Moderna and three, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Half of those reported no symptoms. Those who did had very mild symptoms that resembled what you’d get with a cold, allergies or flu. Three were hospitalized, and they had compromised immune systems.

“All of the variants are of concern,” she said. “We’re in a race against the variants. Every time that virus is transmitted, it has a chance to mutate. The faster people get vaccinated, the better we keep mutations from happening.”

Dr. Christopher Ball said the state lab has asked laboratories around the state to send five or more samples weekly for sequencing to detect the presence of variants.

“What we test are heavily biased towards variants so it cannot be extrapolated as being representative of what’s circulating in the state,” he said.

That said, Ball said officials feel comfortable in saying that two variants of concern—the U.K. and California variants--are circulating in most areas of the state.  The trends seen in Idaho are similar to what’s happening nationally.

Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said the case rate in Idaho has remained steady over the last six weeks with the exception of eastern Idaho where cases are going up. The positivity rate is about 5 percent.

The age of those being hospitalized for COVID has seen a gradual decrease. At the beginning of February when those 65 years and older became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the average age of infected patients was in the early 40s. Now it's 35.5 years, according to Turner.

"It's been a gradual decrease," she said. "It's not like it went over a cliff or anything like that."

VACCINES FOR CHILDREN ON THE HORIZON

All Idahoans 16 and older are now eligible for vaccines.

Pfizer is expected to file for emergency use authorization for 12- to 15-year-olds this month, said Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist. Clinical tests are being conducted on younger children.

Moderna is starting phase 1 trials for a vaccine addressing the South Africa variant just in case its current vaccine doesn’t perform as well against that variant as they’d like, she added.

The state is eyeing mobile vaccines to reach rural parts of the state, said Sarah Leeds, who oversees Idaho’s immunization program. “It may be more expensive but they’re no less important,” she said.

A Boise State University group reported Tuesday that Idaho is on target to reach herd immunity of 60 percent at the current rate of vaccination.

But Hahn noted that the definition of herd immunity has not been established so it’s impossible to predict how long it will take to reach herd immunity. Sixty percent is low, she added, given that experts believe at least 70 percent and maybe 85 percent of the population will need to be immunized to achieve herd immunity.

“Plus, the herd includes children and right now we have no vaccines for children,” she said.

PERKS FOR THE VACCINATED

Those who are fully vaccinated can now resume domestic travel without getting tested before or after travel or quarantining afterwards, said Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch. Fully vaccinated people do not need to get tested before leaving for international travel unless required by their destination, she added.

“But we continue to stress that nonessential travel should continue to be limited. We’re not out of the woods yet. If you do travel, wear masks, wash hands and use hand sanitizer.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Hahn said state officials are concerned about reports that show youth are more susceptible to variants than the original novel coronavirus. They’re also bigger spreaders of the variants than they were the original virus.

“Of course, we’re concerned,” she said. We do believe schools as much as possible should be open, but we urge schools to continue to follow guidelines, such as wearing masks, practicing distancing as much as possible and using hand sanitizer.”

BLAINE COUNTY CONTINUES TO LEAD THE VACCINATED

To date 491,331 Idahoans have received at least one dose of vaccine; 319,380 are fully vaccinated.

Among those 65 and older, 69.1 percent have had at least one dose. Among those 55 through 64, 43.7 percent have had at least one dose. And among those 45 to 54, 32.4 percent have had at least one dose.

In Blaine County, 58.28 percent, or 10,962 of 21,669 residents, have received at least one dose. Blaine County continues to lead the counties with Valley County coming in next at 47 percent. Owyhee County continues to rank the lowest with 20 percent of its population vaccinated.

About 30 percent, or 45,000, of those in the South Central Public Health District have received at least one dose. The county has about 200,000 residents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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