BOISE, Idaho — Gov. Brad Little announced Wednesday his decision to open up COVID-19 vaccine appointments to all Idahoans over age 16 starting Monday, April 5.
That means there will be no prioritization of any group of people. All Idahoans over the age of 16, regardless of their age, medical condition, or occupation, will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Little also announced that starting March 29, any Idahoan with at least one medical condition will be able to access the vaccine.
“I want to thank the close to 390,000 Idahoans who have chosen to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine," Little said. You have taken one of the most important steps during our pandemic fight to protect lives and get us closer to normal. Hundreds of thousands of Idahoans have received the vaccine because it is safe and it works.”
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.
The governor says Idaho still ranks above the national average for getting vaccines administered, with an 82-percent vaccine administration rate. More than 63-percent of Idaho’s 65-and-older population have been vaccinated and almost 30-percent of individuals between the ages of 55 and 64 have been vaccinated.
He added that as more Idahoans choose to get vaccinated we are closer to returning to normal.
“If you are still unsure about the vaccine, I encourage you to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider," he said." There are good reasons most of them did not hesitate to receive their COVID vaccine weeks ago – the COVID vaccine has been tested and it is proving to be safe and effective.”
Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen says introduction of three vaccines has been a game changer. In December, Idaho was getting around 15,000 doses per week. That number now stands at more than 90,000 first and second doses coming into the state each week.
"That puts us in a much better place. The vaccine is a very important tool to help us keep kids in class and save jobs and move forward with some sense of normalcy," Jeppesen.
During a question and answer session with reporters Wednesday health leaders were asked about whether opening up vaccine eligibility would create a bottleneck for providers as the state opens up more appointments.
Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch says several factors were taken into consideration.
"There's certain parts of the state that have moved through their priority groups much faster so we're trying to do that balance of not wanting any appointments to go unfilled, not wanting any vaccine to be wasted," she said.
"We felt that increasing who is eligible will help providers. We've heard from a lot of providers that say, you know we would like to be able to move through our population groups faster, give us that opportunity to do that, and we do have supply coming in that we anticipate can meet that need based upon uptake that we're seeing."
Shaw-Tulloch says there may be some pockets of the state where they is still a little of a wait time for people to get vaccinated, but with 470 enrolled health providers across the state that can get the vaccine out to as many people as possible.
Jeppesen added that vaccine providers have told the state that they have more capacity even with the increased supply coming that we are getting now.
He says the state's new online signup tool is working extremely well, has eliminated the need to go out and shop for appointments, and it only takes about a minute to use.