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IDHW: Might take "months" to get everyone to vaccinate everyone who wants it

Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 08:36:19-05

BOISE, Idaho — Idahoans 65 years and older were able to begin getting vaccinated Monday, but it will take some time before everyone who wants the vaccine is able to get it.

"As a reminder, we are receiving about 25,000 first doses a week. As of Sunday, we had about 22,000 first doses in the state. That means it will take several months to get through this group," said Dave Jeppesen, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director. "We ask for the patience of the public and those that are 65 and older."

As of Wednesday, more than 126,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered across Idaho.

In Tuesday's media briefing, Jeppesen said they are working to reallocate some doses from the Federal Pharmacy Program. Partners like CVS and Walgreens have 32,000 doses they do not plan to use so the state is reallocating 12,600 from CVS.

"We have reallocated 6,300 first doses, a total of 12,600 doses from CVS, which will be delivered this Wednesday to enrolled COVID-19 vaccine health providers in all seven public health districts. We are still working with Walgreens to determine how many doses we can reallocate from them," Jeppesen said.

Jeppesen also clarified IDHW could collect race and ethnicity information for COVID-19 vaccinations, but it's unclear how much of that data will be collected.

"There is also no statutory authority for the department or health care providers to mandate that patients provide race and ethnicity information. It's optional for patients to provide this information," Jeppesen said.

The Department's Immunization Program Manager Sarah Leeds says they're looking into a new funding opportunity from the CDC.

"We are developing those strategies right now with a lot of our partners, both in the public and private sectors, to engage and increase vaccine access to vulnerable populations, including those across all race and ethnicity backgrounds," Leeds said.

On Monday, local health care providers saw massive demand from people trying to set up an appointment for the vaccine. Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said the health districts are working to make sure individuals can connect with vaccine providers.

"Meet the population where they are, local pharmacy reaching out to them, local health public district, flyers, holding events local to help people navigate that. We would have to see more novel solutions," Shaw-Tulloch said.

Moving forward, health officials say they'll be looking to ensure everyone has access to the vaccine.

"As we move into the 65+ groups, it's making sure we achieve that equity across not only race in ethnicity, but also income, urban and rural. This is our first general public view, and I think that the place where we are going to have to be extra diligent to make sure that we are not disadvantaging any group for the characteristic they have," Jeppesen said.

State health officials also said a new tool is available on the IDHW website to explain when and where people can get access to the vaccine.