IDHW: Health officials discuss COVID vaccine equity

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Posted at 7:41 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 09:41:06-04

IDAHO — The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is going well, but on Wednesday, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare director Dave Jeppesen said the state’s vaccine data showed some areas fall behind in vaccination rates.

“In the frontier counties the most sparsely populated in the state vaccination is happening at the rate we that we would of expect, this is good news. However, the rural counties are lagging slightly behind what we would expect and the urban counties are slightly ahead of what we would expect. This remains an area we would keep a close eye on,” Jeppesen said during DHW's weekly media briefings.

Throughout the rollout, health officials have been monitoring and taking steps to ensure doses are available for all communities.

“The department is actively working with the health districts and other partners to address the equitable distribution of COVID vaccines. We continue to collect race and ethnicity data and work with providers and partners to improve the reporting of that data,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator of public health.

Shaw-Tulloch said the department is comparing their vaccine data to counties based on their social vulnerabilities index score (SVI).

“We are using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention social vulnerability index, which looks at 16 measures to create a score in the main areas of socioeconomic statuses. Those are things such as poverty level, unemployment, income, educational attainment, household composition,” Shaw-Tulloch said.

Minority status and language are other measures to calculate SVI. Shaw -Tulloch said comparing the data will help them identify what counties could be falling behind in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

“Gives us a picture where we have areas of greater need that can help inform our vaccine strategies in those areas. For example, this may look like increase use of mobile clinics to get the vaccine to particular counties, or conducting clinics in locations by providers that are appropriate for that community or to meet people where they are and by trusted sources,” she said.

Some local health care providers have already stepped up like Saint Alphonsus Health System, Family Medicine Health Center including Terry Reilly Health Services, taking the vaccines to rural areas and vaccinating a hard-to-reach workforce population.

For the past week, Terry Reilly has set up two vaccine clinic sites in Wilder to vaccinate farmworkers. Local Ag farms say it’s been a really big help.

“Most of our employees being Spanish-speaking it’s hard to give them a resource like this. I really appreciate them putting this together because it gave us the opportunity to get our employees vaccinated and us being here as well getting vaccinated I feel it really gave our employees the confidence,” said Brooke Teunissen, who maintains Teunissen Dairy’s office and employee services.