BOISE, Idaho — All Idahoans age 45 and older and those 16 and older living in "congregate settings" are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, state health officials said on Wednesday.
The move to further open vaccine eligibility comes on the heels of Gov. Brad Little's statewide announcement that all Idahoans age 16 and older will become eligible for the vaccine on April 5.
The timelines for eligibility were moved up due to reduced demand for the vaccine in recent weeks.
"What we found in Primary Health this last week the number of people signing up had somewhat slowed down," said Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Primary Health.
The state had initially said that everyone age 55 and older would be eligible for the vaccine starting on Monday, March 22. However, during a briefing Wednesday afternoon, state health officials said that the eligibility schedule was amended to include everyone 45 and older.
According to officials at Central District Health, which covers Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties, vaccine providers have indicated recent widespread vaccine appointment availability, and same-day appointments are often available.
"CDH wants individuals who are interested in receiving protection from COVID-19 through the vaccine, to have access, as quickly as possible," the health district said in a news release.
While it is good that the state is expanding eligibility, Peterman said it is concerning how quickly they have been able to expand since it means there is vaccine hesitancy.
"Frankly to us healthcare providers, we're somewhat disappointed that the uptake for the vaccine hasn't been as high as we would like it," he said. "As we move down the age groups, then there seems to be less interest in the vaccine."
Both state officials and Peterman believe the state is in a better position to vaccinate a large group of Idahoans just becoming eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
The last time the state opened it up to such a large group was at the beginning of February for Idahoans 65 years old and up.
"First of all, we didn't have the pharmacies doing vaccinations at that time so that's number one," Peterman said. "Number two, we're all better at this now. We've learned how to vaccinate large numbers of people."
Anyone who was already eligible is encouraged to make an appointment to receive their vaccine.
Those who are 16-years and older who live in a congregate living setting, as recommended by the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee and approved by Gov. Little, include:
- Emergency shelters and transitional housing
- Dormitory housing for workers
- Correctional and detention facilities (adult)
- Group housing for persons in substance misuse treatment or recovery or with mental illness who do not require hospitalization
- Residential treatment or recovery facility
- Dormitory housing for students
Only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for 16- and 17-year-olds. The Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are authorized for people who are 18 and older.
Little announced on Wednesday that anyone ages 16 to 44 years old with at least one medical condition will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by Monday, March 29, and any Idahoan 16-years and older, regardless of medical conditions, will be eligible for vaccine by April 5.
By moving up the timetable for rollout, the state is hoping to avoid waste of the existing supply of vaccines.
"It is going to be that balancing act but we felt that increasing who is eligible will help providers," IDHW Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said. "We’ve heard from a lot of providers who say we would like to be able to move through our population groups faster, give us that opportunity to do that."
With everyone 16 and older quickly becoming eligible for the vaccine, Peterman said the focus has to be on convincing more Idahoans to get the shot.
"If we vaccinate only 50 percent of our population and people stop wearing their masks, we're not going to get over this," he said.
CDH said it will continue to monitor vaccine supply and appointment availability in its four-county region and will assess whether to accelerate vaccine eligibility.
An updated list of enrolled vaccine providers can be found on the CDH website.
Residents can also use the state's pre-registry vaccine tool to be added to a list that enrolled vaccine providers use to directly connect with those eligible to receive the vaccine.
Correction: Based on a news release from Central District Health, an earlier version of this story mistakenly indicated that the updated eligibility pertained only to those who live in CDH's four-county region.
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