COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine supply, and how to volunteer

Q: Will Idaho receive fewer doses of vaccine now that we know the federal supply has all been distributed and there is no reserve supply?

A: No, Idaho will see a slight increase in vaccine doses starting this week.

After an announcement the week of Jan. 11 by Health and Human Services that it would release all the COVID-19 vaccine it had held in reserve in an effort to speed up the vaccination process, many states, including Idaho, believed more vaccine would be shipped to them than they previously anticipated.

The Department of Health and Welfare, along with other states, learned on Friday that we will not see a large increase in COVID-19 vaccine doses from the previously announced release of second doses. No second doses were held back by the federal government, as expected. However, we have been notified by the federal government that states including Idaho will see a 2-5 percent increase in the number of doses we will receive each week, which amounts to about 950 extra doses each week. At this time, we are anticipating receiving 20,950 doses each week for the foreseeable future.

Along with other states, we are requesting more accurate, timely, and forward-looking estimates of doses Idaho will receive from the federal government. We are committed to being transparent as we quickly work to support enrolled provider organizations as they vaccinate as many people as possible during this rapidly evolving situation.

Q: Will people who have received their first dose still be able to get the second?

A: We expect there will be enough vaccine for Idahoans who have received their first dose to get their second dose of the vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna have assured Health and Human Services (HHS) that manufacturing of the vaccine continues with no issues.

Q: Why can’t Idaho just place an order for enough vaccine for everyone in Idaho who wants it?

A: Right now, there is not enough vaccine being manufactured for everyone who wants it in the United States, so HHS is managing the overall supply and making decisions about how much vaccine to send to each state. All the states are told how much vaccine they can expect on a weekly basis, and then the states evaluate their demand and capacity and submit an order no greater than the number they were allotted. The states have no input on the number of doses available to them each week; we are accepting and distributing everything we are allocated from the federal government. Idaho has ordered the full allotment each week for distribution to local public health districts and enrolled vaccine providers.  

Q: Why is there such a gap in the number of doses given to people and the number of doses the state has received?

A: Administering the vaccine and getting the shot into peoples’ arms is not as easy as it sounds with these vaccines. We have to address many logistical issues, be sure it’s being administered safely, and move as quickly as possible to vaccinate everyone who wants it in each priority group.

Providers must be enrolled in the vaccine program, have the right kind of freezers, and have received the training needed. They must have plans in place to properly store and administer it, as well as the required space for observation and physical distancing for people who are getting vaccinated. That limits the number of people they can vaccinate at any one time because they have to do it by appointment to make sure they can keep people under observation for at least 15 minutes while ensuring they can stay 6 feet apart.

Timing is also a variable — when providers receive vaccine late in the week, it can take some time for them to prepare and schedule appointments, so the vaccination may not begin until the following week.

We know it’s frustrating for people to have to wait to get the vaccine, but please know we are working as quickly as possible with a limited supply of vaccine to safely get it in the arms of Idahoans in the priority groups who want it.

Q: What should I do if I want to help administer vaccine or help in some other way during the pandemic?

You can register to be a volunteer with Idaho’s Medical Reserve Corps in your area. It’s easy to register, and training is free. Medical training is a definite plus, but it’s not necessary to volunteer. Learn more at https://www.volunteeridaho.com/find-my-mrc/.

To slow the spread of COVID-19 in Idaho, please continue to:

  • Wear face coverings  
  • Keep at least six feet between you and others
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Wash your hands often
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly

Resources

Stay up-to-date with the latest and most accurate information on COVID-19 at the following websites:

DHW also posts lots of information, including daily updates on the numbers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Sarah Leeds is the Idaho Immunization Program manager and the lead for Idaho’s vaccine distribution plans in the Division of Public Health in the Department of Health and Welfare.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.

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