BOISE, Idaho — Seventy percent, that is the percentage of American adults President Joe Biden wants to be vaccinated by the 4th of July. There was early excitement in Idaho from people looking to get the vaccine as more and more doses became available, but recently vaccine uptake numbers seem to be trending down.
“I think what we are seeing is a slow down, but it’s not that we think we are done and everyone that wants to be vaccinated has been vaccinated," said state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn. "We know there are people in the state that still want to get the vaccine, but they want it to be close by to them, it has to be convenient. Many people prefer to be vaccinated by their doctor or their healthcare provider.”
Hahn says there is a concerted effort to get vaccine to people that want it.
“There has been a shift over the last several weeks to try and get more vaccine out through the pharmacies, doctors' offices, small mobile clinics that may go to a local church or other convenient locations for people,” Hahn said.
On the road to a 70% vaccination rate among adults in Idaho, the state sits at about 48.5%. An encouraging stat is about 75% of Idaho seniors have received a vaccine. There is a goal to get to 80% soon. Hahn says another major milestone is also well within reach.
“I’m expecting we are going to hit 50% fully vaccinated at some point in the near future, which will be a nice milestone," she said. "We know in the United States we just hit that milestone, I think just last week, where in the United States over 50% of adults are vaccinated. So, we are trailing behind a little bit but we have a very rural state and it’s a big challenge to get the vaccine to everyone that wants it, but we are still working on it.”
Health experts are looking at vaccine data and now keying in on and encouraging young adults, like college students, to get a vaccine as soon as possible.
“If they want to have a normal college year and not have to worry about outbreaks, not have to take a lot of precautions, they’ve got to get their vaccination rates up,” said Dr. David Pate, retired CEO of the St. Luke’s Health System and a member of the governor’s coronavirus taskforce.
Dr. Pate says the focus is also on vaccinating younger Idahoans, ages 12-18, with the goal of having a normal school experience in the fall.
“For those parents who we’ve heard from loud and clear, they want their kids back in school full time, they don’t want masks, they want all sports, well I think you need to get your kids vaccinated and that’s the way we can do that,” Pate said.
Health experts say the virus is still very much in Idaho communities, albeit at low rates. Increasing vaccine rates will be a key to keeping case counts low into the summer and fall.
“What I worry about is that everyone has a false sense of security because of the vaccinated people feeling free now and comfortable that things are good. If you look at the data, we are still seeing this virus circulating, we continue to see new variants coming into the state,” Hahn said.
There is hope that vaccine hesitant people will soon get a vaccine as more and more research on the vaccine is published.
“I think there is a number of people that are waiting for the vaccines to go from emergency use authorization to full approval. The good news is both Pfizer and now Moderna as of today have both filed for approval,” Pate said. “This is in our hands, this is totally up to us. If we all choose to get vaccinated, we are going to have a great rest of the year.”
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