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Idaho health experts worried about 'vaccine hesitancy'

Despite a large number of seniors who have not been vaccinated, the director of Idaho Health and Welfare says it appears that demand has started to decline a bit.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare held their weekly briefing Tuesday to give us an update on how the vaccine rollout in Idaho is going.

Gov. Brad Little opened up the call by saying this week marks the one-year anniversary since Idaho saw its first confirmed case of the coronavirus.

"Tragically we've lost close to 1,900 of our fellow Idahoans to this new dangerous and aggressive disease," Little said.

A lot has changed in the past 12 months, including the development of three safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. More than 289,000 Idahoans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but the governor says we are not out of the woods yet.

"We've turned the corner in our pandemic fight and I believe the worst part is behind us," Little said. "That said, we must remain vigilant. We have a way to go before we can return to life as normal."

Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppsen said 55 percent of those 65 and older have had at least one shot of the vaccine. However, they are noticing that despite a large number of seniors who have not been vaccinated it appears that demand has started to decline a bit.

This comes as the supply of Moderna and Pfizer first doses increased to more than 45,000 a week.

Jeppsen says this has resulted in some vaccine providers struggling to fill some of their available appointments.

One big topic of discussion surrounded around "vaccine hesitancy."

“There's roughly 60 percent of Idahoans who are anxiously awaiting to get vaccinated," Jeppesen said. "And then the numbers get a little bit squishier and somewhere around 20% of the population are interested but are going to wait and see how this goes. And that leaves about 20% of the population that has some belief that they're never going to take it or they're going to be much harder to convince to take the vaccine."

We've also learned, as of this week, the retail pharmacy program has allocated 50,830 first doses to that federal partnership.

And since the state opened up its pre-registration solution website, 45,000 Idahoans have already registered since Friday. The main objective of the website is to give Idahoans one place to go if they are interested in getting vaccinated. Then once enrolled, a provider will reach out to that person when they are eligible.

Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch revealed that people aged 55 to 64 will now be eligible for vaccine no later than March 15th.

The first week will be focused on people with medical conditions. Then the rest of the age group will be the second week.

Then no later than March 29th, people aged 45 to 54 will be eligible. Those with medical conditions will be the first week. The second week will be the remainder of the group.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we've heard a lot of about the concept of herd immunity. Dr. Christine Hahn addressed that and where that stands.

"We are still hearing 80 to 85 percent of the population immunized. I even heard Dr. Walensky in the last week say 90 percent, which made my heart drop because obviously the higher it goes, the more of a challenge it will be to get there," Dr. Hahn said. "That's obviously the end game, it's a ways away."

She said Idaho still needs to work on how to educate people on the need to get vaccinated, and as time goes by maybe they'll see friends and neighbor get vaccinated without having any problems and hopefully that will increase vaccine confidence and lead to more people getting vaccinated.

Jeppesen also revealed that the department will launch a public service campaign this April to address those who are hesitant or concerned about the vaccine.


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