With COVID-19 vaccine supply now exceeding demand in Idaho, the state on Tuesday announced that it had eliminated a requirement that people live or work in Idaho to be eligible for vaccination.

Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, announced the change while stating that Idaho had surpassed the milestone of administering more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

By Thursday morning, Idaho health-care providers had administered 1,036,536 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 597,444 people, with 471,095 deemed fully vaccinated. The federally approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine requires only one shot.

In the media briefing Tuesday afternoon, Jeppesen said the COVID-19 case rate in the state—based on a moving average—had been “hovering around” 11 per 100,000 residents over the previous week. The rate of COVID-19 tests that register as positive for infection had been below 5% for the second week in a row, Jeppesen said. Hospitalizations had been on a downward trend.

“The overall state of COVID-19 numbers continue to look very good,” Jeppesen said.

However, Jeppesen said, the department had witnessed a decline in the number of vaccine doses administered in the state for two consecutive weeks. The state on Tuesday had a four-week inventory of COVID-19 vaccines, he said.

There is some evidence of so-called “vaccine hesitancy” in Idaho, as well as across the nation. Polls have indicated that nearly one-quarter of Americans firmly don’t intend to be vaccinated.

Brianna Bodily, public information officer for the South Central Public Health District, said hesitancy—as well as disinterest—has been observed among some groups in the region.

“Most of our younger adults have less chance of severe side effects from COVID-19, so there is less interest in the vaccine,” she said. “We are trying to help our residents understand that vaccines work best when a majority of the population is immunized.”

The ample supply of COVID-19 vaccines in Idaho has prompted some health-care providers to start offering walk-in innoculations, Jeppesen said.

The St. Luke’s Health System is one of them. As of Thursday, anyone 16 and up can walk into a St. Luke’s COVID-19 vaccine location to receive a free vaccination, with no appointment necessary, St. Luke’s announced.

“St. Luke’s is opening to walk-ins in alignment with state recommendations and in an effort to eliminate barriers that prevent people from getting the protection against COVID-19 that comes from the vaccine,” St. Luke’s stated in a news release.

Dave Jeppesen

People ages 16-18 can only receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine. It is available at St. Luke’s sites in Nampa, Meridian, Boise and Twin Falls, as well as through the South Central Public Health District and some Wood River Valley pharmacies. St. Luke’s Wood River is administering the Moderna vaccine, which is approved for adults 18 and older.

Minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to provide consent at the time of a walk-in appointment. If a parent or guardian is not present, written or verbal consent is needed.

St. Luke’s stated that COVID-19 vaccination days and hours vary by site and can change. Because walk-ins are only accepted on designated vaccine days at specific times, people should call 208-381-9500 for details.

The Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum has also planned a walk-in vaccine clinic. Members 16 and older can be vaccinated on May 12 and then get a second dose on June 2.

Blaine County risk level remains ‘high’

Meanwhile, Blaine County’s overall risk level for COVID-19 was maintained in the “high” category on Thursday, with the primary indicators trending upward.

In its risk-assessment model using data from April 18-24, the county’s rate of COVID-19 tests registering as positive increased to 5.43% from 3.35% the previous week. A rate above 5% is deemed a “high” risk. In the same week, the county’s number of new daily cases per hypothetical 100,000 residents increased to 14.9 from 11.8 the previous week, based on a seven-day average. A rate between 10 and 25 per 100,000 is considered a “high” risk.

The impact on hospital capacity was deemed “minimal.”

The county’s model has four risk categories: minimal, moderate, high and critical.

New infections were distributed across several age groups. The 40-49 age group had the most new cases in the county in the seven-day span, at seven. One infection was recorded in the 0-4 age group.

The Department of Health and Welfare recorded 255 new cases of COVID-19 statewide on Wednesday. Since the pandemic began last winter, the state has recorded 187,269 cases and 2,045 COVID-related deaths.

Blaine County has recorded 2,362 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, with 18 local deaths attributed to the virus.

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