As the national death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic topped 300,000, healthcare officials in Blaine County and the surrounding region were preparing Tuesday to administer the first shipments of a federally approved vaccine to limit the spread and devastating impacts of the virus.

The first shipments of a two-dose vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company Pfizer out of Michigan arrived in Idaho on Monday, with some healthcare workers in the southern and eastern parts of the state receiving a first dose that afternoon. Gov. Brad Little announced on social media that Dr. Russ McUne of Rexburg was the first person in the state to get the vaccine. Thirty-eight doses of the vaccine had been administered in Idaho by midday Tuesday.

An initial allotment for Idaho of 13,650 doses of the vaccine—produced by Pfizer and partner BioNTech and approved by U.S. agencies last weekend—is arriving in batches this week, with all of the doses expected to arrive by the end of the week, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported. Pfizer has a deal with the federal government to provide 100 million doses of the vaccine by March, enough for 50 million people to be fully inoculated.

The Twin Falls-based South Central Public Health District—which serves eight regional counties, including Blaine—has been allocated 975 doses in the first shipment this week, said Brianna Bodily, the agency’s public information officer.

“The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has informed us they are hopeful for another shipment next week, but we have not been given any confirmation yet,” she said Monday in an email to the Idaho Mountain Express.

The state’s Vaccine Advisory Committee has determined that healthcare workers will receive the initial doses.

For more on this story, see the Wednesday, Dec. 16, edition of the Idaho Mountain Express.

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