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Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare outlines vaccine success, public education initiatives during weekly meeting

IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen says educating the public of vaccine safety and efficacy is the top priority of the state as vaccine eligibility expands to all Idahoans.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare (IDHW) held its weekly COVID-19 vaccine meeting on Tuesday. 

IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen, Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch, State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn, Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner, Idaho Bureau of Laboratories Chief Dr. Christopher Ball and Idaho Immunization Program manager Sarah Leeds will give updates on the statewide vaccine rollout.  

During the meeting, Jeppesen outlined the success of the state's vaccine rollout. With the help of the state's COVID-19 vaccine registration system, nearly 100,000 Idahoans have registered to get the vaccine. Of that number, more than half have either received the vaccine or are scheduled to receive it soon.

Beginning next week, the state will receive a total of 82,190 doses of the vaccine each week. The stark increase in vaccine allotment is due in part to an increase in production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

This comes one day after the state opened vaccine appointments to Idahoans aged 16-44 with at least one pre-existing medical condition

During an Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare meeting on March 24, Gov. Brad Little announced that anyone age 16 and older will be able to receive the vaccine starting on April 5.

"Data continues to confirm that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and they are extremely good at preventing COVID-19," Jeppesen said. "The COVID-19 vaccine is the best shot we have to keep our kids in the classroom, protect jobs and save lives."

Turner offered insight regarding COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases, which occur when someone who is fully vaccinated tests positive for the virus. In total, 97 Idahoans have tested positive for the virus after being fully vaccinated, which is less than 0.5% of the people vaccinated.

Of the 97 post-vaccine infections, about half reported no symptoms. 80% had very mild or moderate symptoms and three individuals required hospitalization; however, all three has pre-existing conditions which made them more susceptible to severe illness, according to Turner.

54% of post-vaccine infections were found in people who received the Pfizer vaccine, and 47% were found in those who received the Moderna vaccine.

To date, three vaccinated Idahoans have been infected with the COVID-19 variant first discovered in California.

Hahn is closely tracking local and national data about the efficacy of vaccines against new strains of the virus. Lab studies suggest a decreased ability for some antibodies to attach to some variants, which is concerning. 

However, the clinical data confirming how well the vaccines work against variants is still a work in progress, according to Hahn.

“The message we keep hearing from the scientists that are studying this is that even if there is a reduced effectiveness of some of these vaccines, they are still well worth getting and are expected to be helpful," she said.

Little encouraged Idahoans to continue to use the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System at COVIDvaccine.idaho.gov. So far, more than 90,000 individuals have used the tool since it went live on March 5.

To watch the briefing, click here:

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