PAYETTE COUNTY — While the general public cannot yet be vaccinated for COVID-19, Idaho Gov. Brad Little is expressing optimism that the time is nearing that they may. In a news briefing on Tuesday, Little updated the public on how distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is going.
“The arrival of a safe COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho just a few weeks ago means we’re in the final stretch of our pandemic fight,” said Little. “This is a truly uplifting sense that we have turned the corner.”
Little expressed gratitude to Idahoans for their patience over the past 11 months. He reassured those watching that Idaho health officials are working to distribute available vaccines quickly and safely.
“Our goal with vaccine planning and distribution is, in part, to reduce transmission and preserve a functioning health care system, and to get back to normal as quickly as possible,” he said. “First, I want to assure you that Idaho accepts all doses as soon as they are allocated by the federal government. All of those doses are then shipped directly from the manufacturer to local public health districts to local health care providers.”
Little stated that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare does not store doses at its headquarters, nor does any other state entity.
“Since mid-December, more than than thirty-three thousand long-term care facility staff and residents, and health care workers providing care for COVID-19 patients have received vaccines,” he noted.
A total of 38,891 doses have been administered as of Jan. 12, according to the Idaho COVID-19 website. This represents 33,168 individuals, 27,476 of which have received their first dose and 5,692 of which their second.
“The bottom line is, vaccines are being administered safely and successfully in Idaho,” said Little.
Little said state officials intend to accelerate vaccine distribution, but notes that the greatest challenge is not getting doses to hospital loading docks but rather into the arms of those who desire them.
“To our providers administering the vaccine, I want to assure you that there are ample resources available to you to get vaccinations administered as quickly as possible.”
Little said the state of Idaho has received “millions of dollars” which are going toward rolling out vaccines efficiently statewide, stating that “no resource barriers” exist. As of Tuesday, 247 providers are enrolled to provide vaccines across the state according to Little.
He announced that financial support would become available to these providers, in a effort to “build capacity and get Idahoans vaccinated.”
During its meeting on Friday, Little’s Coronavirus Vaccine Advisory Committee voted to recommend that Idahoans over age 65 be made eligible for the vaccine in the next phase of rollout. During the briefing, the governor announced he would adopt their recommendations.
“This will include an estimated 500,000 Idahoans,” said Little. “However, we will prioritize teachers, school staff, first responders and some front line workers between Jan. 13 and Jan. 31 before making doses available to the 65 and up population starting Feb. 1.”
Little said capacity still needs to be built up to enable vaccination for seniors to avoid backlogs developing, noting the senior population in Idaho is “enormous.”
Vaccines were first made available to health care workers, long-term facility staff and residents, hygienists, individuals working in medicine (pharmacists and technicians), emergency response workers and other related medical staff.
Essential workers in food and agriculture, non-medical Idaho National Guard personnel, manufacturing workers, public transit workers and U.S. Postal Service employees are next to become eligible, as early as February according to the state distribution schedule.