The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare held another media briefing about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Idaho today.
Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen and Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch provided an update on the status of the vaccine in the Gem State, and then answered questions from media. State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn and Sarah Leeds, program manager for the Idaho Immunization Program, also joined in on the call.
Health officials said the state is still working on a new online scheduling tool where Idahoans can go to sign up for vaccines and be notified by local clinics when they become available. They had hoped to roll it out this week but say it is still in the testing phase.
"Last week I did talk about a registration function that we had hoped to stand up this week. It was a tool that we mentioned called PrepMod and we anticipated availability, but in looking at some of the functionality of it we wanted to make sure that the functionality was appropriate and it was going to meet our needs, and so we feel there are still some issues that we need to resolve," said Shaw-Tulloch.
She said they now hope to have the online tool ready to roll out by the end of this month or the early part of February.
Jeppesen announced that Idaho is getting making more federal money available to vaccine providers in the form of COVID-19 Capacity Safety and Reporting grants.
"Enrolled vaccine provider organizations can use the grants for items such as increasing resources and staffing, purchasing needed equipment and supplies, develop and implement strategies to ensure access for hard to reach and vulnerable populations, and many other items to reach the goals of this program," Jeppesen said.
He said the grants will be paid monthly through priority groups one and two, and the amount healthcare providers receive will be based on the number of doses administered.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced that he is increasing the number of Idaho National Guard soldiers helping with the state's coronavirus response from 250 to 400 to increase vaccine distribution.
The Idaho National Guard was initially activated in November to help at hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state in response to a surge in infections. The soldiers have been tasked with mobile COVID testing, screening for the virus, and facility decontamination, among other roles.
To date, 58,549 people in Idaho have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the state's coronavirus website. And 10,762 people have received both doses of the vaccine.
Although the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare says Idaho will not see an increase in COVID-19 vaccine doses from the previously announced release of second doses, the state will receive 2-5% more doses of the vaccine each week. That is about 950 extra doses each week. The state is expecting to receive 20,950 doses each week for the foreseeable future.
Idahoans aged 65 and over are included in the next phase of the vaccine rollout, which is scheduled to begin in February. More than 500,000 Idahoans are included in that priority group.