By Lyndsie Kiebert
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced March 16 that all Idahoans over the age of 16 will be able to secure COVID-19 vaccine appointments by April 26, also releasing a complete age-based qualification timeline for the next several weeks.
Currently, those working in health care, K-12 schools and other essential occupations are eligible, as well as those over 65 years old and people between 55-64 with at least one qualifying medical condition. By March 22, anyone between ages 55-64 will become eligible; by March 29, appointments will open for people 45-54 with medical conditions, with the general population in that age group gaining access April 5. Finally, April 12 marks the eligibility date for people ages 16-44 — first those with medical conditions, then on April 26, the general public will qualify.
As of March 17, 328,004 Idahoans had received vaccines, 202,520 of them having received the two shots required to be considered inoculated against the virus using the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or the single dose needed for the recently-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine to work. In Bonner County, 3,937 people have doses in progress, while 5,018 are considered fully vaccinated.
Regardless of whether a person’s group is currently eligible for a vaccine, any Idahoan can sign up through the state’s pre-registration website — covidvaccine.idaho.gov — and a provider will contact them when an appointment is available.
North Idaho received welcome news about transmission levels on March 11, as the Panhandle Health District announced that all five northern counties — Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone — were downgraded to the “yellow” risk category, which signifies the rate of community spread of the virus.
“We are cautiously optimistic seeing these trends,” said PHD epidemiologist Jeff Lee. “Although these trends are promising, this is not the time to let our guard down. These trends are in part due to the precautions we have been taking and should continue to take until we reach a level of herd immunity that will provide greater protection.”
PHD officials shared that there are currently five variants of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., making it imperative to continue “masking, physical distancing, hand washing, avoiding large crowds and getting vaccinated when your turn is up” to “limit the spread and give the virus less chances to change.”
North Idahoans with questions about COVID-19 or getting vaccinated can contact PHD on the district’s hotline Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at 877-415-5225.
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