Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Nearly half of Idaho seniors vaccinated

Staff Writer | March 3, 2021 1:07 AM

Nearly half of Idaho’s senior citizens have now been vaccinated, giving state leaders hope as they unveil new tools in the war against the coronavirus.

Gov. Brad Little, in a town hall conference call Tuesday, reported that 47 percent of Idaho’s seniors have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. He said that number is a symbol of hope after what’s been a dour year.

“There’s no question we’ve had some terrible sacrifices in the last year,” Little said. “First, the tragedy of the loss of life and the loved ones of those people. Second, the tragedy of connectivity, of particularly older people being able to see their family, friends and loved ones. With our vaccine rollout, we see great opportunities on the horizon.”

Dave Jeppesen, director of the state’s Department of Health and Welfare, broke down how the senior population has been somewhat-evenly distributed. Residents 85 years and older have been vaccinated to the tune of 53 percent, while 51 percent of those 75 to 84 have been vaccinated. A total of 44 percent of the state’s 65-to-74 population has been vaccinated.

Seniors have been leading Idaho’s overall vaccination wave. Jeppesen said 60,000 Idahoans were vaccinated in the week ending Feb. 27 alone.

As of Tuesday evening, 249,069 Idahoans had received at least one dose of a vaccine, as opposed to the 171,836 COVID-19 cases statewide. A total of 1,871 Idaho residents have died as a result of the virus, according to the Department of Health and Welfare.

The good vaccine news comes as the state continues to roll out updates on its transparency data engine. The Department of Health and Welfare said Monday that race and ethnicity would now be incorporated into its transparency tool, which can be found on Idaho’s coronavirus website.

Jeppesen said the update will be helpful in examining vaccine distribution, but the new data won’t be perfect, as marking race or ethnicity is optional on vaccination forms.

“Idaho and the Department of Health and Welfare are committed to transparency, but we also want to make sure the data we can provide has integrity,” Jeppesen said. “Race and ethnicity are not mandatory for patients to report, but if the patient provides this data, it is required to be reported by enrolled COVID-19 vaccine providers. It is new for the Idaho Immunization Program to capture and report this data.”

Both Jeppesen and Little expressed optimism, as well, about a third vaccine on the horizon. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine — a one-dose shot that was given an Emergency Use Authorization last week by the Food and Drug Administration — is set to be distributed to health districts across the country as early as Friday. Idaho is reportedly scheduled to receive an initial 13,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The new vaccine is also prompting the advent of a new vaccination scheduling tool. Jeppesen said he expects his department to release the new one-stop statewide scheduling tool by week’s end. Little said the tool will unify efforts to schedule an appointment, dramatically decreasing confusion as the state races to offer vaccinations as soon as openings become available.

“Make no mistake about it,” Little said. “We want as many people vaccinated as possible.”