REXBURG, Idaho — This article was written by Brittni Johnson of East Idaho News.
The COVID-19 vaccine has officially landed in Idaho and a local hospital was one of the first to administer it.
Madison Memorial Hospital became one of the first hospitals in the Gem State to provide the vaccine Monday afternoon. A hospital in the Boise area also received a shipment Monday but it’s unclear if shots have been administered yet.
Eastern Idaho Public Health Clinical Services Division Director Amy Gamett injected the vaccine into five Madison Memorial employees including doctors, a respiratory therapist and a registered nurse who works in the intensive care unit.
By the end of the week, the state is expecting to have received all of its initial allotment of 13,650 doses of the vaccine, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
“As an emergency room physician working on the front lines (and) working with a lot of COVID, this is a vaccine that we’ve been waiting for a long time,” Madison Memorial Dr. Russell McUne said while receiving his shot. “I want to be able to show an example that it’s not something to be afraid of. This is going to help us.”
Madison Memorial Hospitalist Director Dr. Jack Clark said a protein that’s specific to the COVID-19 virus was identified, and the vaccine makes it so a person’s body recognizes that protein to fight it before it causes a “full-blown infection.”
Gamett said the most reported side effect has been pain at the injection site and on days two and three, people tend to have body aches and sometimes a fever.
“In perspective, it’s much less severe than the COVID disease itself,” she said.
It’s not clear how many times a person can contract COVID-19, which is why Clark believes it’s a good idea to get vaccinated, even if a person has had the virus before. He said the vaccine gives a person’s body a better chance at helping the immune system prevent another infection.
He said he’s thrilled the vaccine is out and is grateful the hospital has received COVID-19 doses.
“It’s pretty fascinating that we can have this opportunity to be able to get the vaccine, that it was developed (and) that it’s been tested,” he mentioned. “I think this will make a big difference if we can get people vaccinated to get rid of this pandemic.”
Gamett expressed her thoughts on the vaccine saying that it feels like “a beginning to the end.” Although not everybody can receive the vaccine at the moment, she said this feels like the first step towards getting things back to the way the world was a year ago.
“The vaccine right now is very limited … so they are going to high-risk groups. Currently, that’s hospital staff,” Gamett explained. “As we move out to healthcare workers, then we’ll start to move to those other tiered groups. When those vaccines become available more to the public, we’ll have that information out.”
For people who are hesitant to receive the vaccine, she encourages people to do their research and make an educated decision.
“Don’t base your decision on a meme that you read or another story that somebody shared,” she said. “Base it on good solid scientific education.”
More information on Idaho’s vaccine rollout plan can be found here.
For more COVID-19 news, click here.