By Lyndsie Kiebert
Idaho health officials took steps this week to ensure vaccines against the novel coronavirus make it into the arms of Idaho residents, announcing measures to verify residency of those seeking vaccines and continuing debates about who will be prioritized in upcoming phases of the vaccine rollout plan.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Feb. 23 that providers will from now on be requiring proof that a person registering for a vaccine either lives or works in Idaho. IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters that same day that “about 4,800 people have gotten vaccinated in Idaho despite not living or working here,” according to the Idaho Statesman.
“Vaccine is being allocated to the states based on population numbers, and that means it’s based on the number of people who live in each state,” Jeppesen stated in a news release. “Given the limited number of doses Idaho is receiving, we want to make sure Idahoans who live or work here have as much access to the vaccine as possible so we can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our state.”
IDHW announced that acceptable forms of identification for obtaining a vaccine could include “a driver’s license or work or school ID; a letter with the person’s name and address; a utility bill with the person’s name; or a voucher from an employer, faith-based institution, health care provider, school or other registered organization or agency that [says] the person lives or works in Idaho.”
IDHW also announced that “regardless of citizenship or immigration status, all eligible people with a primary residence or who work in Idaho should get vaccinated when it is their turn.”
The Idaho Statesman reports that Idaho is currently receiving about 40,000 first doses of vaccine per week — 31,000 to the state and about 9,500 through the recently approved retail pharmacy program. Second doses — necessary to complete inoculation — are not counted in those numbers.
As of Feb. 24, 223,152 Idahoans have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 103,307 have received two. In Bonner County, 3,224 residents have received one dose, while 2,711 have received both doses needed in order to be considered fully vaccinated against the virus.
The state is currently prioritizing members of Groups 1 and 2 of Idaho’s phased vaccine rollout plan, which includes health care workers, teachers and people over the age of 65, among many other categories. The COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, which decides who is included in each vaccination group, is currently working to figure out who will be a part of Group 3. People with underlying health conditions, as well as an array of essential workers not yet eligible for the vaccine, are all being considered for upcoming phases, but no final decisions have been made.
To see Idaho’s tentative vaccination timeline, visit healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/covid-19-vaccination. Also visit the site to find which local providers are administering vaccines. North Idahoans without internet access are also welcome to call the Panhandle Health District COVID-19 hotline at 877-415-5225, and someone will assist you.
Those in Bonner and Boundary counties are now able to schedule appointments with Kaniksu Health Services — one of the local providers administering the COVID-19 vaccine — online.
KHS is currently only vaccinating people over 65 who “do not have a COVID-19 vaccine scheduled elsewhere, have not already received a COVID-19 vaccine, have not had any vaccine in the past 14 days, and who are not currently sick with COVID-19 or recently experienced a high-risk exposure to COVID-19.”
Visit kaniksuhealthservices.org/covid-19-vaccination to learn more.
IDHW also announced the near completion of a new online vaccine scheduling tool: a one-stop shop where Idahoans can pre-register for a vaccine.
“Once registered, an enrolled COVID-19 vaccine provider will reach out to schedule an appointment when they’re eligible to get vaccinated when the provider has an appointment open,” Jeppesen told reporters. “We expect to have this available in early March.”
On Feb. 24, Idaho reported 423 new cases of the virus, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 170,289 and 1,840 virus-related deaths. In Bonner County, PHD reports 2,959 total cases of COVID-19 — 240 of those being active and 31 resulting in death.
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