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Groups around Idaho continue to vaccinate underserved communities

While doses administered in the state increase, groups around Idaho continue to work and reach out to get the vaccine to as many people who want it.

BOISE, Idaho — It's been nearly five months since the coronavirus vaccine has been widely available to all Idahoans 12 years and older. According to the Idaho Department of Health Welfare's COVID-19 dashboard, the number of people getting vaccinated in the past month has been steady. 

As of Friday, nearly 777,000 people in the Gem State have gotten fully vaccinated, which is about 51% of the eligible population. Nearly 91,000 have received the first dose of a two-dose series.

While doses administered in the state increase, groups around Idaho continue to work and reach out to get the vaccine to as many people who want it.

"Our patient population is uninsured, low income," said Jesus Blanco, the community outreach manager for Terry Reilly Health Services. "What that means is they don't have access to transportation, there are language issues and they don't have the ability to come to us."

Terry Reilly Health Services is used to looking out for the underserved because they're part of the community too, Blanco said. The health group provides medical, dental and other services for those in need.

Since vaccinations rolled out, Blanco and staff have hit the road to visit rural communities where he said the vaccination rates are low.

"It's not about a number for us, it's about getting the vaccine out," Blanco explained. "In some of our smaller communities we'll get like seven, eight, nine, ten [people] vaccinated, but that's really great in these really great small communities." 

In the past month, Blanco said it's been a steady trend of vaccinations. As the months go on, Terry Rielly relies on community partners to invite them out to areas where there is want and need for the vaccine.

"We have senior centers, we have housing authorities, schools and community leaders that just are like, 'You know what? We know who Terry Reilly is. Can you come out and provide vaccines in our small community?'" Blanco said. 

However, it's not only rural areas the mobile health service visits. They've been able to partner with organizations like the Consulate of Mexico in Boise, which is also making a push to get the people they serve vaccinated. 

"I believe vaccination rates have improved within the Mexican and Hispanic community over the past couple of months," said Ricardo Gerado Higuera, the Consul of Mexico in Idaho.

In addition to Terry Reilly, the Consul of Mexico said they've also been able to partner with other medical groups like St. Luke's Health System, Saint Alphonsus Medical Group and Boise State's University's health clinic to hold vaccination events. 

The Consulate of Mexico said dozens of Mexican nationals visit their building daily and they're able to offer them information and resources to get vaccinated while they wait for services. 

"We all have worked hard to create awareness about the importance of vaccinations with our Mexican and Hispanic community," Higuera said.

As vaccinations in the state steadily increase, both Terry Reilly and the Consulate of Mexico acknowledged that there is still a need to get vaccinations out there to more Idahoans. 

Blanco believes visiting and talking at a personal level with someone will help continue the increase.

"Someone needs to make a decision on their own timeline," Blanco said. He added as he sees more people in rural areas willing to get the vaccine, it's usually because they've either had friends or family that have been in the hospital or died from COVID-19.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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