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Idaho working on a statewide scheduling tool for COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen says he understands Idahoans are frustrated by the current system. This new system will allow them to sign up once.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Dave Jeppesen says they've heard from many frustrated Idahoans trying to make an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The limited availability has created a situation where people have to continuously call or go online to try and schedule an appointment with a vaccine provider. That's about to change.

During a question and answer session with the media Tuesday, Jeppesen announced that help is on the way.

"I understand the frustration with the current system of finding an appointment. The HW teams are working on a statewide vaccine pre-registration solution," Jeppesen said. "The main objective of this pre-registration solution is to give Idahoans one place to go that they are interested in getting vaccinated.

"Once registered, an enrolled COVID-19 vaccine provider will reach out to schedule an appointment when they're eligible to get vaccinated when the provider has an appointment open. We expect to have this available in early March."

The state of Idaho also announced that anyone seeking to get vaccinated in Idaho is required to live or work in the state. Jeppesen said there is a limited number of doses Idaho is receiving and they want to make sure Idahoans who live and work here have as much access to the vaccine as possible so they can stop the spread of the virus in the state.

"And to date, as near as we can tell, about 4,800 people have been vaccinated who didn't live or work in Idaho, they've been vaccinated in Idaho," Jeppesen said. "And so we're really just trying to acknowledge that we've gotten much quicker getting doses out, which makes us a more attractive place for people to come get vaccinated."

He added that as of Monday, Idaho had administered 93.9% of the vaccine doses it had received, making the Gem State 5th best in the nation at getting shots in arms within seven days of receiving the vaccine.

Idaho, like most of the country, is grappling to deal with vaccine supply issues brought about by recent severe winter storms. All doses that were supposed to arrive in Idaho last week were delayed, said Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program.

"We do know that some doses arrived in eastern Idaho on Saturday. And we know that all the Pfizer doses, the shipments were supposed to be completed and in Idaho by Monday," Leeds said, "and Moderna shipments were also resumed and will be completed no later than Wednesday. And then of course we have our, this week's allocation being shipped as well, so many doses arriving in Idaho this week."

Some more good news, Idaho is also getting more vaccine through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch says the state will receive 9,580 doses weekly through the program, which is mostly administered at Albertsons and Walmart pharmacies around the state. Right now, a total of 42 pharmacies are participating in the program, but more pharmacies are expected to be available soon. 

Last week, KTVB reported that the first confirmed case of a South African variant that causes the COVID-19 virus was found in a southwest Idaho man.  State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn told the media that another Idahoan has also got that variant. No other information about the case has been released.