St. Luke’s Health System this week kicked off a COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the Wood River Valley featuring its new mobile vaccination unit.
The mobile unit—a retrofitted RV—offered free COVID-19 vaccinations Monday to anyone 16 and older from its station outside the headquarters of The Hunger Coalition in Bellevue. The mobile unit traveled to The Meadows residential area south of Ketchum on Tuesday to offer a clinic from 4-8 p.m.
The mobile unit is set up to provide hundreds of COVID-19 vaccinations each day, with no appointment necessary. It offers both the two-dose Pfizer vaccine and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. St. Luke’s is also deploying the unit to other parts of southern Idaho, with the intention of vaccinating people in rural and underserved communities.
“I’m lucky to have the vaccine,” said Fredy Cisneros, one of the first patients at the unit Monday. “Now I’m closer to be able to visit my family in Peru.”
Joy Prudek, public relations manager for St. Luke’s Wood River, said the mobile unit offers a more convenient option for people who might not have time or the means to get to a stationary clinic, pharmacy or medical office.
“A lot of people are busy,” she said. “They aren’t able to schedule an appointment. Life gets busy and we understand that. We bring the vaccine to people, as opposed to the people coming to us.”
The mobile unit is scheduled to be in Blaine County for several more days, as well as in early June to provide second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
In Idaho, anyone 16 and older is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for people ages 16 and 17. Minors must have parental consent or an exemption.
On Monday, the federal Food and Drug Administration issued emergency-use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to kids ages 12-15. If the authorization is approved Wednesday by an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pfizer vaccine could be given to people in that age group before the end of the week.
Scott Milner, St. Luke’s senior director of pharmacy, said St. Luke’s is prepared to give the Pfizer vaccine to patients ages 12-15 if final authorization is granted.
“It’s on board,” he said Monday, while working at the mobile unit in Bellevue.
Milner said St. Luke’s will deploy the mobile unit as long as there is demand for the COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccination efforts across the state are helping to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus and limit COVID-19 illness, he said.
“We’re fortunate that we see COVID not being prevalent. You know, rewind a year ago, where this whole county was shut down,” Milner said. “I think we’re fortunate the vaccines are here to help, and we’re seeing the benefits of that.”
Indeed, the state’s COVID-19 numbers have improved. On Monday, the seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population was 8.5, its lowest number since early summer 2020. By Monday, health-care providers had administered 1,128,533 vaccine doses to 623,836 people in Idaho, with 540,185 people deemed fully vaccinated. Like the Pfizer vaccine, the third approved vaccine—made by Moderna—requires two doses for full vaccination.
For people who are unable to access the mobile unit, St. Luke’s will make accommodations. Patients with limited mobility are advised to stay in their vehicle and call 208-513-3413 when they arrive at the vaccination location. St. Luke’s staff will go to them and provide directions.