The St. Luke’s Health System and South Central Public Health District are opening COVID-19 vaccine clinics this week in the Wood River Valley to people in the state’s priority group 1a, as determined by Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee.

St. Luke’s Wood River has started scheduling appointments for people who qualify to receive vaccinations. The clinics at St. Luke’s Wood River will begin Thursday, Jan. 14. Clinics at Health District offices have already started, the agency stated. The Health District is contacting administration in offices and agencies that qualify to schedule appointments during clinic hours.

Gov. Brad Little has adopted the recommendations of the state’s Vaccine Advisory Committee to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination for frontline health-care providers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Groups who qualify in group 1a include: public health workers who are unable to telework; clinic/outpatient staff and support staff unable to telework; emergency-management-response workers and emergency-medical-services workers; hospital inpatient staff and support staff; long-term care facility staff and residents; pharmacists and aides; professional home-care providers for high-risk people; and dentists and their aides.

St. Luke’s will open the same number of appointments as it has vaccine doses, the organization stated. When available, COVID-19 vaccine appointments at St. Luke’s Wood River will be scheduled through the St. Luke’s online myChart system. If patients do not have a myChart account, they are encouraged to establish one. People who have never used St. Luke’s services can call 208-381-9000 to set up an account. Those who cannot use myChart can call St. Luke’s Connect at 208-381-9500 to set up an appointment when their phase and group/subgroup opens up for scheduling.

People in Blaine County who qualify and have not been contacted by the South Central Public Health District can call the district office in Bellevue at 208-788-4335 to schedule an appointment.

Brianna Bodily, public information officer for the Health District, said the vaccination campaign is an effort to inoculate as many people as possible in the initial priority group before the state moves onto the next stage of vaccination. The district is partnering with St. Luke’s.

To verify appropriate group placement, people will be required to provide proof of employment at their appointment, the organizations stated. The COVID vaccine will not be given if the patient does not have the proper proof of their job, such as a badge, pay stub or W-2 paperwork.

“As progress is made on vaccinations in priority group 1a, St. Luke’s and SCPHD will address the next prioritized groups based on Idaho’s vaccine program recommendations and the availability of the vaccine,” the organizations said in a joint statement.

Individuals interested in learning more about the vaccine should not call their local St. Luke’s clinic or their health-care provider, the organizations stated. Instead, they can stay informed by:

“When anyone gets a COVID vaccine, it helps to protect us all, but until a significant number of people are vaccinated, it should only be considered an additional tactic in prevention efforts,” the organizations stated. “St. Luke’s and SCPHD encourage the community to continue to practice good measures to prevent the spread of the virus like face coverings, physical distancing, and hand hygiene.”

Bodily said the Health District is encouraging all people who qualify to get an approved COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

“The vaccine has been deemed safe and effective and isn’t something people should be afraid to get,” she said in an interview, noting that people who decline when eligible might lose priority status.

Bodily said that although the distribution of the approved vaccines has “slowed to a trickle,” the pace of vaccination is expected to pick up considerably in future weeks and months.

“This is a brand-new process,” she said. “So much is being done right now. It feels slow … but in reality things are moving very quickly.”

The Health District has estimated that COVID-19 vaccinations will be available to the general public in May.

St. Luke’s has been vaccinating frontline staff for three weeks and expected to have administered 8,000 vaccine doses by the end of Monday, Jan. 11. Statewide, 31,487 Idahoans had received the vaccine as of Monday morning, according to the state Department of Health and Welfare. Of those, 27,152 had only received the first of the two-dose inoculation, while 4,335 had received the full course of shots. 

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