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Blaine County Noted for High Vax Rate as Southern Idaho COVID Cases Plateau
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Friday, October 29, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Blaine County is getting national press for its high vaccination rate.

Idaho ‘s vaccination rate is the second lowest in the nation with just 43 percent of the state’s total population vaccinated and 54 percent of eligible Idahoans vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

But Blaine County’s vaccination rate is 86.8 percent, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. And 99.9 percent of Blaine County residents 65 and older are vaccinated, compared with just under 79 percent of all Idahoans 65 and older.

Sadly, however, the county has lost a 27th resident to COVID. The county has reported 30 new cases in the past six days for an average of five new cases a day.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in southern Idaho are beginning to plateau. But the number of cases, hospitalizations, ICU patients and COVID-related deaths remain too high to roll back crisis standards of care in Idaho hospitals, said Idaho’s Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen at this week’s COVID briefing.

Idaho is one of a half-dozen states where COVID continues to rage, even as cases are dropping in the remainder of the United States, according to the New York Times.

Idaho averaged 1,220 new cases a day over the two-week period ending Tuesday, Oct. 26—lower than the 14-day average of 1,287 posted on Oct. 2. It averaged just 66 over a two-week period ending July 5, according to Health and Welfare.

The number of Idahoans hospitalized with COVID on Saturday, Oct. 23, was 570—163 of those in intensive care. That’s down from Sept. 24 when 793 Idahoans were hospitalized—213 in the ICU.

While things are improving in southern Idaho, things are getting worse in North Idaho where the Panhandle Health District accounted for 22 percent of the state’s new COVID cases in the week ending Oct. 23, according to Health and Welfare.

“Keep in mind the Panhandle is 14 percent of the overall Idaho population,” Jeppesen said, noting that the norther part of the state has a lower vaccination rate.

Idaho’s Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said already-full hospitals are bracing for flu season and encouraged Idahoans to get the flu vaccine, as well as the COVID vaccine.

“We’ve already had lab confirmation of influenza in Idaho. So this is, of course, on top of that high watermark of COVID cases,” she said.

State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn added that health officials are expecting a normal or possibly an even more severe flu season this year, after a mile one last year.

She also noted that COVID-19 vaccine boosters are now available at clinics throughout the state. She also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and FDA have determined that it’s okay for someone who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get a Pfizer or Moderna booster and for those who received Pfizer vaccine to get a Moderna booster and vice versa.

In fact, she said, there’s some evidence that a booster effect can be better with a Pfizer or Moderna booster for those who initially got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Concerned that Moderna is just offering a half-dose booster? Moderna did a good job studying various amounts of doses, Hahn said. And it determined that the antibody response with the half dose looks really good.

“I’m glad they did that kind of work,” she said, noting that she herself had received the Moderna vaccine. “They’re hoping that the half-dose will have fewer side effects and be easier for people to tolerate.”

FDA advisors on Tuesday recommended approval of kid-sized shots of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 through 11, and Idaho Immunization Program Manager Sarah Leeds said pediatric doses are ready to be shipped as soon as the CDC signs off on COVID vaccine for children.

“This changes the landscape for children and parents,” said Hahn.

The FDA is expected to make its decision this week and the CDC will decide whether to recommend the shots next week.

The doses contain a third of the amount of vaccine given to those 12 and older. The vaccine proved nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection in the Pfizer study and had similar or fewer temporary side effects, such as sore arms or fever, as teens experience, according to data provided the FDA.

Children are at lower risk of severe COVID-19 than older people. Still, more than 8,300 five- to 11-year-olds have been hospitalized and a hundred have lost their lives to COVID, according to the CDC.


 

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