Idaho closes in on half a million vaccinated residents

Data on ‘breakthrough’ cases of COVID-19 bodes well for vaccine effectiveness

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Idaho’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues to gain speed, with anyone 16 and older — regardless of comorbid health conditions — being able to access appointments to get their shots starting Monday, April 5. To date, 447,193 Idahoans have successfully received at least one shot, including 11,835 Bonner County residents.

Several health districts around the state, including the Panhandle Health District — which encompasses the five northern counties of the state — have already opened appointments to every resident 16 and older.

Dr. Chase Williams receives one of the first vaccinations administered at BGH in December 2020. Photo courtesy BGH.

“After assessing the situation with our enrolled vaccine providers, we made the decision as a group to move forward in the phases,” PHD Health Services Division Administrator Don Duffy stated in a March 24 media release. “We have the supply and available appointments, but have continued to see a decline in demand. At the end of the day, we just want to get people vaccinated who are choosing to receive a vaccine.”

Appointments can be made directly through a provider or by pre-registering through the state’s vaccination website: If you need help navigating the online appointment scheduling or lack internet access, PHD’s hotline can help. Call 877-415-5225, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

PHD also pointed out that while the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is for people 16 or older, the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are for people 18 or older.

Early data of vaccinated Idahoans is teaching researchers about how well — and in what ways — the COVID-19 vaccine prevents infection and symptoms. The Idaho Capital Sun reported that officials shared March 30 they’ve identified 97 Idahoans who contracted COVID-19 at least two weeks after they became fully vaccinated against the virus with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. That’s about .03% of all fully vaccinated residents.

According to the Idaho Capital Sun, of the 97 Idahoans who experienced breakthrough infections — that is, infections that broke past the immunity provided by the vaccine — only half showed symptoms, 80% of those who showed illness had very mild symptoms and only three people ended up in the hospital, according to the Idaho Division of Public Health. To date, no one with a breakthrough infection has died in Idaho.

Health officials recommend continued now-standard virus mitigation efforts, including mask-wearing and social distancing, even after being vaccinated. PHD restated the importance of these measures in a March 25 media release announcing the identification of a case of the so-called “California variant” of COVID-19 in North Idaho.

“This reinforces the need for everyone in our community to remain diligent in following the precautionary measures to prevent further spread,” said PHD Director Lora Whalen. “There remains much to be learned about the variants. With the vaccine being made widely available, we encourage those who wish to receive one to do so as soon as they are able to help reduce the spread.”

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