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Idaho lawmakers propose legislation aimed at speeding up the COVID vaccine rollout

Reps. John Gannon and Bruce Skaug are working together on legislation that they believe would help get more Idahoans vaccinated.

BOISE, Idaho — A pair of Idaho lawmakers say they are working to encourage a faster pace for Idaho’s COVID vaccine rollout.

“This is an emergency, that’s what the governor says, that’s what the president says, and in an emergency you’ve got to move,” said Rep. John Gannon.

Gannon says to him the data on Idaho’s COVID vaccine rollout shows that something needs to change. According to data collected by the CDC Idaho has only administered a little over half of their allocated vaccines. So, he drafted legislation with a message to vaccine vendors who he says just aren’t getting enough shots in arms.

“You need to get these vaccine doses out, if you can’t call Health and Welfare and get them reassigned to a distributor who can,” Gannon said.

So how does his legislation work? It requires that vaccine distributors, which includes any entity giving vaccines, to administer 70% of their allotment in 14 days. If they don’t do that, they must report that to Health and Welfare who would then be required to send sitting vaccine supply to a distributor that needs more and is ready to vaccinate people waiting. Failing to report that information would come with a $5,000 a day fine.

“It’s not designed to hurt anybody, it’s not designed to make anybody get vaccinated. It’s designed to take the extra doses that aren’t being used by one vendor get them to another vendor and get the job done,” Gannon said.

RELATED: Idaho expects to get more Moderna vaccine next week through pharmacy partnership program

Gannon, a Democrat, is working on this legislation with Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug.  Skaug says a report he saw on KTVB about how many vaccine doses Idaho has yet to use caught his attention.

“You guys brought this to light. I saw last week you did a story and I was just in my living room and I heard a half of it and I said, hey this is wrong. Then Mr. Gannon approached me said, 'Bruce this is wrong,' we can’t be Pollyanna about everything going well when we are at the bottom of the list in the nation,” Skaug said.

That list is the Becker’s Hospital Review rankings on vaccines administered by state, that list is compiled based on CDC data collected from healthcare facilities and public health authorities.

“My goodness, today we checked on the rankings and we are 44 in the nation. That’s the highest we’ve been since I’ve looked at this. There is no excuse for us to be 44th,” Skaug said.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare told KTVB this week that there are a number of reasons why doses haven’t been administered yet. Gannon says he totally understands there isn’t going to be a 100% usage rate, but he points to the CDC data that reports that Idaho has administered 54.1% of all vaccines distributed to the state.

“So you have to have some in reserve but you don’t need to have 46% in reserve,” Gannon said.

Skaug says it’s evident Idaho has plenty of unused vaccine supply that could be going to use.

“We have a lot of people who are waiting to get the vaccine including my 90-year-old mother-in-law, and why is it at 90 does she have to wait until now to get her vaccine. We can do this better. The bottom line question is, why are we at the bottom of the nation? We have smart people here, we can get it done. We can do it better, let’s go,” Skaug said.

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