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Health experts say COVID-19 vaccine timeline in Idaho could change

The director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says two things could happen to speed up the timeline.

So how long will it take to get back to normal?

It's a question many people are asking.

Right now, timelines on the state's official COVID-19 website indicate most Idahoans will get their vaccine by May or June.

However, Idaho isn't getting as many vaccines from the federal government as was previously thought.

A little over 20,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed. Should that pace continue we would fall well short of what we need to achieve herd immunity by the end of the year.

During a press briefing Tuesday with the state's top health officials, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said the timeline could speed up.

"Our hope is two things happen, one is that production ramps up more quickly than expected of the existing vaccine, and there is some hope for that but at the moment they are seeing 20,000 plus the 20,000 for the second dose per week at this point," he said. "And the second is that we are expecting additional vaccines to be approved. AstraZeneca and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine are pretty far along in their clinical trials. We don't have a precise estimate of when they come on, but we anticipate that will greatly increase out allocation as well." 

It was revealed that every vaccine that comes into the state is being put in the que to be administered as safely and quickly as possible.

To date, the state has received 83,475 doses of the vaccine. And so far, 20,843 have been administered.

"As we've seen over the start of this receiving doses, it was a little bit inconsistent in the numbers of doses that we would receive from week to week," said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the Idaho Division of Public Health. "We have been told that we can expect to receive approximately 20,000 doses in Idaho each week moving forward, and that we will have that consistency."

She acknowledges that there are going to be some "bumps in the road" as this has never been done before, but she appreciates everyone's patience.

The state is also expecting additional vaccines to be approved to increase our allotment.

Idaho health leaders said they will continue to adjust the list of who will be next to get vaccinated as advised by the Idaho Vaccine Advisory Committee, which meets again on Friday.

And while we are on the subject of the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Brad Little spent the lunch hour Tuesday answering questions from Idahoans across that state in his weekly AARP town hall meeting.

John in Coeur d'Alene asked the governor why essential workers like convenient store workers, food processors and construction workers will get their vaccine before those under the age 65.

Certain essential workers are in Phase 2 of the state's vaccine rollout. The state is aiming to begin those out in February.

But older adults are in Phase 3 and the state estimated they won't get their shot until April. That's right before the general public in May.

John pointed out that those who are close to 65 are more vulnerable to the virus than younger, healthier construction workers.

"Some of those essential workers are vectors for spread that have been exposed all along in this," Little said. "And that is why those essential workers who have had that exposure are in that group. But believe me, senior citizens are a top priority."

The governor said the state is working on to nail down a more exact timeline for when Idahoans will get the vaccine.

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