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Gov. Little, Health and Welfare director address vaccine rollout, priority population, appointment scheduling tool in AARP Town Hall

While the COVID-19 situation is improving in Idaho, Little urged Idahoans to continue taking all necessary safety measures.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen took questions from Idahoans during an AARP Town Hall on Tuesday. Questions mainly concerned the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and scheduling appointments.

Idaho's vaccine rollout is going well compared to other states, according to Little. As of Tuesday, 47% of Idahoans 65 years of age and older have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We see great opportunities on the horizon," Little said. 

The approval of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine is great news for Idaho's rollout, as the state is set to receive about 13,000 doses of the vaccine this week. However, none will be delivered next week.

Idaho's COVID-19 situation continues to improve daily. Only five counties in Idaho have a current incident rate of over 25 and nearly half of the state's counties have an incident rate in the single digits, according to Little.

While the situation is improving, Little urged Idahoans to continue taking all necessary safety measures.

"If you're not vaccinated, you still have to take precautions," he said.

Jeppesen also gave updates on Idaho's improved COVID-19 data, stating the current statewide positivity rate is 5.1%. Hospitalizations and cases in long-term care facilities continue to drop as well, with about 113 facilities across the state facing a current outbreak. Previously, over 215 had outbreaks.

Idaho's priority continues to be vaccinating the most vulnerable population, something Jeppesen feels the state is achieving. 53% of Idahoans 85 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 51% of those aged 75-84 have received one shot, and 44% of those aged 65-74 have received one shot.

Nearly 60,000 Idahoans received a shot last week, according to Jeppesen.

The much-anticipated vaccine appointment scheduling tool is anticipated to be ready later this week, according to Jeppesen. Many of the questions asked during the Town Hall meeting were about the tool.

"The main objective of this pre-registration solution is to give Idahoans one place to go that they are interested in getting vaccinated," he said in a meeting on Feb. 23. "Once registered, an enrolled COVID-19 vaccine provider will reach out to schedule an appointment when they're eligible to get vaccinated when the provider has an appointment open. We expect to have this available in early March."

Assistance for Idahoans experiencing long-term effects from COVID-19 was also a main topic of interest. In 2020, Saint Alphonsus opened a clinic off Federal Way in Boise designed to treat those with long-term after effects, known as "long-haulers."

Little's next AARP Town Hall meeting is set for Tuesday, March 16 at noon.

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