IDAHO — More and more Idahoans are continuing to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, but the Department of Health and Welfare warns there will soon be more people eligible for a shot than the number of doses available.
So far more than 85,000 people in Idaho have received at least their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Last week, that included thousands of first responders and school teachers, while healthcare works are starting to receive second doses.
Starting Monday, February 1, people 65 and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine but vaccinating this population will be difficult due to its size.
There are about 270,000 Idahoans over the age of 65 and only about 21,000 doses each week according to the IDHW.
“We will not be able to vaccinate everyone over the age of 65 and older who wants the vaccine all at once, but it will take multiple weeks, to be able to do this,” Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said.
(1/2) Starting Feb. 1, Idahoans 65 years old and older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, but vaccinating this population will take time because of its size.— DHW (@IDHW) January 27, 2021
There are roughly 269,000 Idahoans 65 years old and older and Idaho only receives about 21,000 doses each week. pic.twitter.com/clCtGYHMeW
It could take several weeks before all Idahoans in that age group who want the vaccine can get it. If a third vaccine developed by Johnson and Johnson is approved and then granted emergency use authorization, Idaho will most likely gain doses and be able to vaccinate more people quickly.
“It's going to take a long time to get all our seniors vaccinated. We know we would much rather have them vaccinated more quickly, but if we have a new vaccine out there, especially one that takes only one dose, everything is going to speed up,” State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn said.
HEALTH DISTRICTS' INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS
As the date nears to start vaccinations, health districts across the state are instating their own procedures to be prepared for the number of residents they will have to help serve.
"We are looking at tens of thousands of people where other priority groups have been, you know, several thousand, so there's a huge difference there," said Brianna Bodily, South Central Public Health District spokeswoman. "And in the past, what we've been able to do is work through employers. So when we are working with healthcare providers, we could call a dentist's office and say, how many of your employees would like to receive a vaccine? Ok, great, let's schedule them all on this day."
To try and make this process easier, the South Central Public Health District has put together a waiting list for residents who have already signed up to receive their vaccinations.
"That is part of the reason we have this waitlist set up so that we work through that list. As soon as we have an open appointment, we can go to the next person on the list and call them," said Bodily.
Those who would like to sign up and be put on the waitlist can do it through the health district's website. However, since there are already many people on the list, they have also given access to a directory of other local healthcare providers residents can reach out to try and receive a vaccine.
Since this next priority group consists of people from an older generation, some may not be tech-savvy. Due to this, the health district is trying to be more efficient with their phones and provide more care and attention to those who need assistance.
"We see a need for reassurance, so people calling back multiple times to make sure that what they heard was, one, correct or two, that that appointment that they set is in fact still set," said Bodily.
Bodily also stressed for those utilizing their phone to ensure it one they consistently carry. That way, if the district calls, you do not miss it. Otherwise, they will be moving to the next person since the demand is high.
South Central Public Health is having to be cautious of scheduling their appointments due to the limited inventory of doses and the desire of people wanting to be vaccinated. They decided to conduct appointments weekly to ensure they have enough vaccinations in stock and someone doesn't have the misfortune of having their dosage canceled.
Hahn also says this potential third vaccine could be approved sometime in February. IDHW has released an estimated timeline of when Idahoans could get their vaccines.
If you have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, reach out to your public health district point of contact below.