BOISE, Idaho — A new timeline published by the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare shows an early projection for when Idahoans in select groups will be able to get their COVID-19 vaccine.
The timeline places Idahoans into four different groups, with vaccine availability ranging from now until May 2021, when public health officials hope enough vaccine will be available for the general public.
State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn is part of the team that worked to navigate federal and state guidelines for when people will be able to get a vaccine.
The preliminary estimate was made by considering guidance from both Idaho health officials and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This is definitely not set in stone. This is our plan for right now, but this can change,” Hahn said. "We thought it would be really helpful to have this vaccine timeline. It's an estimate, we can't predict what's going to happen. We've already heard in the last few weeks how sometimes we think we are getting a certain amount of vaccine and then we get less than we thought. This is our attempt to illustrate for everybody when they can get the vaccine."
Idaho is currently vaccinating those in group one, which is made up of healthcare workers and employees and residents of long-term care facilities. Group one will soon expand to other medical personnel, like outpatient clinic staff, pharmacists and emergency medical service workers.
Group two, which is predicted to begin receiving the vaccine as early as Feb. 2021, includes K-12 school staff, grocery and convenience store employees, firefighters, police officers and Idahoans 75 years of age or older.
Details regarding how and when to receive a vaccine in this stage are still being discussed, according to Hahn.
“That’s all coming," she said. "We wish that we had more time to be ready ahead of time. We are sort of building this plane as we fly it but we are really hoping that shortly we will have much better information for people on where to sign up or where to get their vaccine."
Generally, the idea is for local health districts to work with employers to determine when and where their employees can receive the vaccine.
“We want to make it as easy as possible," Hahn said. "We are trying to get some really nice and easy ways for people to get notified when they are able to get vaccinated."
Once all those in group two who want the vaccine have received it, groups three and four can begin the process of receiving the shot. Group three will include all adults aged 65 and older, as well as individuals age 16-64 with medical conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms.
After group three vaccinations are administered, group four, made up of the general public, can begin receiving the vaccine. Right now, group three is set to begin in April 2021, and group four is set to begin in May 2021.
There are numerous factors that could alter the timeline, according to Hahn. For example, a vaccine shortage could mean a group may have to wait longer to begin receiving the vaccine. In contrast, some situations could expedite the vaccination process.
“Let’s say another vaccine gets approved in the United States and we get a third vaccine," Hahn said. "That could speed the line up so it could go that way as well.
Specific details regarding when and where individuals in the last three groups can receive the vaccine are still being determined.
“I really hope that people find this helpful, but please don’t see it as set in stone," Hahn said. "It’s absolutely a living document that we are going to keep changing as our advisory committee makes more decisions and also as we get more information about how many vaccines we will be getting."
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