IDHW: Vaccine waste is low as rates decline, COVID-19 cases rising

Posted at 2:38 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 10:15:54-04

IDAHO — COVID-19 cases in Idaho have surged over the last few weeks and concerns about the Delta variant are growing.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports around 30 cases of the variant, which is known to be more contagious. State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn said it's hard to pinpoint exactly where those cases are due to limited lab capacities.

Vaccine numbers

Over 2,000 Idahoans have died from COVID-19, including nine new deaths over the last week. While cases are continuing the climb, vaccination rates remain low.

About 40% of Idaho’s population is fully vaccinated, lower than the current national average which is around the 50% mark. Vaccine efforts have slowed around the state due to lower demand.

Saint Alphonsus announced Thursday it was closing the mass vaccine site that was vaccinating roughly 1,500 patients a day. The mass vaccine site closed Saturday with vaccination numbers dropping lower than ever before with only 20-30 shots given a day.

Related: Idaho National Guard to start wrapping up COVID-19 operations

“We had planned on running this for as long as we would have the need for a mass vaccination, but as the numbers really started dropping, the need to have that large of a clinic is just no longer there,” Interim Chief Nursing Officer for Saint Alphonsus Health System Clint Child said.

The state is also seeing an overall drop in vaccine demand, leading to fewer vaccine doses shipped to Idaho.

“We do continue to slowly order vaccines weekly. We're reordering very little because there is adequate supply in the state, but we don’t get any allocation from the federal government that we turn back. We just order as needed, and that’s across the country,” immunization program manager for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Sarah Leeds said.

So far, the state hasn’t seen too much vaccine waste according to Leeds.

“37,297 doses have been wasted, which is 2.18% of the total doses that have been delivered in Idaho since we began vaccinating,” Leeds said.

Saint Alphonsus says while the health system's number of wasted doses is low, more shots are coming up at the end of their shelf life.

“It's not a huge number, especially with some of the extensions they’ve gotten for shelf life. We’re really trying to keep those numbers down but there are lots that are coming up on expiration. We have plenty of vaccines for people to get vaccinated,” Child said.