COVID-19 vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccinations will be open to all Idahoans 16 and older starting on Monday, April 5.

Idahoans ages 16-44 with at least one serious medical condition became eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations Monday, bringing the state one step closer to authorizing all adults for inoculation.

The final group of residents not yet eligible for vaccination—people ages 16-44 in the general population—will become eligible next Monday, April 5. At that time, all Idahoans ages 16 and older will be able to schedule appointments to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Qualifying medical conditions are those that are determined to put someone at “increased risk” of serious illness or death from COVID-19, according to the state.

Gov. Brad Little moved up the timeline for vaccination eligibility last week. President Joe Biden has directed all U.S. states, tribes and territories to make all adults in the nation eligible for vaccination by May 1. He stated Monday that 90% of U.S. adults will be eligible within the next three weeks.

The other groups now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in Idaho include residents age 45 and older, health-care workers, residents and workers in long-term care facilities, first responders, K-12 teachers and staff, frontline essential workers and people who live in congregate settings.

As of Tuesday morning, 692,080 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered to 432,495 people in Idaho, with 273,535 people—or about 20% of the population—determined to be fully vaccinated, the state Department of Health and Welfare reported.

The federally approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while a third vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson requires only one shot. The Pfizer vaccine is approved for people 16 and older, while the other two vaccines are approved for people 18 and older.

Eligible Idahoans can register for a vaccination appointment online with the state’s scheduling tool at covidvaccine.idaho.gov. The system is linked to hundreds of vaccine providers across the state, including clinics and pharmacies. Eligible people can alternatively register to receive a vaccination from a St. Luke’s Health System facility through the organization’s myChart online portal or by calling 208-381-9500.

St. Luke’s announced Monday that it had administered its 100,000th COVID-19 vaccine dose in its system that morning.

“St. Luke’s continues to add appointment availability as vaccine supply increases,” the organization stated.

Supply has been increasing. Biden said 33 million doses of approved vaccines would be distributed to vaccination sites nationwide this week. Last week, 122,000 doses were delivered to sites in Idaho, the Department of Health and Welfare reported.

However, some Blaine County residents have complained that they have not been able to secure an appointment to be vaccinated at St. Luke’s Wood River. Joy Prudek, the hospital’s public relations manager, said demand for appointments has been exceeding supply, but the local availability is gradually increasing. For people who register with St. Luke’s, appointments are released first to those in high-priority groups, she said.

Cases on the rise

Despite more Americans being vaccinated, COVID-19 case numbers are on the rise, nationally and locally.

On March 29, the seven-day average of cases in the United States was 61,741, up from 52,732 on March 14, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

In Blaine County, the seven-day case average per hypothetical 100,000 people was 18.0 on March 29, up from 5.0 on March 15, the Department of Health and Welfare reported.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday warned of “impending doom,” stating that another deadly surge of COVID-19 cases could come as some states ease restrictions on mitigation and some people let their guard down.

“Right now, I’m scared,” she said.

As of Tuesday morning, 179,763 cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in Idaho since the beginning of the pandemic, including 335 new cases on Sunday and Monday, the Department of Health and Welfare reported. The deaths of 1,957 people in Idaho have been attributed to the virus.

In Blaine County, the department reported 2,252 confirmed and probable cases have been recorded, with 17 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

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