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Idaho COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan now aims to include ages 65 and older in February

Teachers, school staff, first responders and other frontline workers will be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine phase targeted between Jan. 13-31.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced four key updates to Idaho's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

The latest Idaho COVID-19 distribution plan prioritizes the vaccine for teachers, school staff, first responders and other frontline workers this month. It also will make the shot available to the 65-and-older population sometime in February.

"Our goal with vaccine planning and distribution is, in part, to reduce transmission and preserve a functioning healthcare system – and get back to normal as quickly as possible," Little said. 

Little said Idaho is administering the vaccine faster than the national average and the strategies announced Tuesday should further advance the state's process, with a focus on "building up provider capacity and increasing access, and efficiently and effectively getting Idaho's workforce and most high-risk individuals vaccinated."

During his remarks, Little assured Idahoans that COVID-19 vaccines are being administered safely. The state accepts all doses that are allocated by the federal government, which are then shipped directly to public health districts and healthcare providers throughout the state.

Over 33,000 healthcare workers and long-term care facility staff and residents have received the vaccine since Dec. 2020.

"We plan to accelerate the pace while ensuring a sustainable cadence of vaccination moving forward," Little said. "The State of Idaho gets the doses and the resources to the providers, and the providers get the shots in the arms of people who want it."

Idaho has received millions of dollars to ensure the vaccine rollout is efficient statewide and, according to Little, there is not a resource barrier.

A new plan will be rolled out to hundreds of Idaho hospitals, pharmacies, health districts and other providers in the coming days. This is to ensure providers have financial support to vaccinate as quickly as possible.

The Vaccine Data Dashboard on the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare website shows how many people have been vaccinated by county. It is being built to show how many doses have been shipped to each county.

Little announced during his remarks that the state will adopt the recommendation of the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee to allow teachers, frontline worker and Idahoans 65 years or older to receive their COVID-19 vaccine in the next phase.

This could include an estimated 500,000 Idahoans.

Teachers, school staff, first responders and other frontline workers will be prioritized between Jan. 13-31. After all in those categories have been vaccinated, the shot will become available to the 65-and-older population, sometime between Feb. 1-15.

"The 65-and-older population is enormous, and there is still work actively being done to build up capacity among our providers to take on this population," Little said. "We do not want to create a bubble or backlog. Once we get a handle on capacity, we will be able to get to the 65-and-older population." 

State health leaders also gave updates on the COVID-19 vaccine distribution Tuesday.

Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch talked about the progress Idaho is making on doses administered in the state. She says Idaho is in alignment with the national average for progress on the percent of doses that are administered.

"We are feeling very good about the progress that we've been making," she said. "We know that as we indicated last week, that is seems that there's, we're never moving fast enough or in the right places, but I feel very good that as doses are coming in, and as the governor had stated, none of the vaccine is held here in the state, none of it actually comes to us it's all distributed out locally into your local populations."

Shaw-Tulloch says the state is in the process of developing a registration tool that will allow people to sign up online for the vaccine and be matched with a provider.

"Currently, we have some vaccine providers that we've talked with this last week that have been using a tool called PrepMod to help them with their vaccine, scheduling their vaccine clinics, and for their patient populations to know when to come in and get their vaccine," Shaw-Tulloch said. "We are expanding that to be able to use it for the general population. And we expect that tool to be available next Monday."

She added there have also been a number of requests for volunteers to help with the vaccine rollout. If you are interested in helping out, you can find more information at www.volunteeridaho.com.