Idaho aiming for 80% vaccinated against COVID-19

Johnson & Johnson doses paused amid blood clot concerns

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Idaho health officials announced April 13 that they are setting an ambitious goal: 80% of Idahoans vaccinated against the novel coronavirus by September 2021. 

Idaho National Guard personnel prepare to vaccinate clinic attendees in Feb. 2021. Photo by Lyndsie Kiebert.

“We want to push ourselves, we want to push Idahoans, to get that vaccine,” Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator of the Idaho Division of Public Health, told the Idaho Capital Sun.

Current data from the state’s coronavirus reporting website ( shows that 39.2% of Idaho’s population has received at least one dose, with 27.1% of those 16 and older fully vaccinated. Those numbers, according to state health officials, come out to 548,748 Idahoans as of April 14, with 13,132 of those residing in Bonner County.

The 80% goal is nothing short of optimistic. The Idaho Capital Sun reports that 74% of Idahoans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and with the state only recently opening appointments for anyone older than 16, there is ground still to cover.

However, Idaho vaccinated about 45% of residents against the flu last year. Closer to home, a 2018 PLOS Medicine study reported that Bonner County ranks second in the nation for vaccine exemptions for Kindergarten-age children.

Another setback in the quest for herd immunity came April 13, as federal officials urged a “pause in use” of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after six cases of a rare, severe blood clot appeared in people who received doses.

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC officials stated in a media release. “People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.”

At the time of the announcement, almost 7 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had already been administered around the U.S. — about 30,000 of those in Idaho and 4,425 in the Panhandle Health District. All six cases of the rare clotting happened in women between the ages of 18 and 48, none of them in Idaho. Of the six, one died.

“[O]ut of an abundance of caution we are pausing any administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” PHD Health Services Administrator Don Duffy announced April 13. “More needs to be known about these rare blood clots and how health care providers can effectively treat them before we consider resuming. 

“Similar to how vaccine providers keep epi pens on hand due to the rare risk of anaphylaxis from the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine among people with certain medical conditions, we need to know how we can protect our patients from an adverse reaction,” he added.

Those in North Idaho with questions about COVID-19 can call PHD’s hotline Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at 877-415-5225.

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