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.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Update on the COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho

The COVID-19 vaccine is on the minds of Idahoans, and we appreciate your questions and your feedback.

I want to let the people of Idaho know that we hear you. We read your emails and your social media messages, and we take all of your phone calls to heart. We are grateful that so many of you have chosen to take the vaccine, and that you are ready to do so. Your commitment to participating in this exciting part of the pandemic response does not go unnoticed.

We are committed to doing everything we can to get the vaccines administered as quickly and safely as possible. There was a 67 percent increase in the number of doses administered the week of Jan. 4, and we expect the number of doses administered each week to continue to increase. We are committed to getting all the vaccine that Idaho is allocated shipped to Idaho as soon they become available. The vaccines are sent directly from the manufacturer to those who can administer them. We are committed to doing all we can to support providers so they can do their job of administering the vaccine. And we are committed to communicating with you as openly and as often as possible. These are our promises to you and the vaccine providers in Idaho.

I want to thank Gov. Brad Little for his budget proposal that includes $250 million to finish the fight against COVID-19. We are grateful for his leadership and commitment.

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COVID Q&A: Where to get a vaccine, new virus strain, and vaccine side effects

Q: How and where can I get vaccinated if I don’t have a primary care physician?

A: For people without a primary care physician, access to vaccines may be through places such as your employer, local public health agencies, federally qualified health centers, and pharmacies. As we move from vaccinating healthcare workers to offering vaccine to others, more and more healthcare providers will have vaccine. Currently over 200 healthcare providers have signed up to be able to provide COVID-19 vaccine.

Q: What do we know about the new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 and is it in Idaho?

A: We are aware that the new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been reported in the U.S. Idaho Public Health officials and testing laboratories are watching for the variant virus, but we have not detected it yet. Nonetheless, we think it’s probably here, as it is in some nearby states.

The Idaho public health laboratory is participating in a national Strain Surveillance project and is routinely sending COVID positive samples to CDC for sequencing to monitor for new variants. In addition, our public health laboratory also has the capacity to perform gene sequencing of the virus and will be bringing on that capability as soon as possible this year, to provide additional monitoring for mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 genome in Idaho.

At this point, our work to vaccinate healthcare workers and residents and staff in long-term care facilities continues. The expectation of experts is that based on the mutations, the currently available vaccines should still be very effective against this strain.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: DHW is committed to full transparency on the COVID-19 vaccine

When it comes to COVID-19 in Idaho, DHW is focused on vaccine delivery and administration and making sure we share everything we know with you. As part of our commitment, we have developed a COVID-19 vaccine page on the coronavirus website, which is updated daily. On the site and page, you can find:

As part of Idaho’s commitment to transparency, DHW is now hosting vaccine media briefings every Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to listen in and/or watch the briefing, while the media representatives have the opportunity to ask questions. The log-in information is available each Monday on the coronavirus website.

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COVID Q&A: Vaccine distribution and administration in Idaho

Coming up at 10 a.m. Wednesday: FB Live with Sarah Leeds. Send your vaccine distribution questions ahead of time to Communications@dhw.idaho.gov or watch live on Wednesday and type your vaccine distribution questions in the comments. We will answer as many on-topic questions as we can, and we’ll consider off-topic questions for future FB Live events. Join us!

Q: How can I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

A: COVID-19 vaccination in Idaho is occurring in phases. Healthcare workers are now getting vaccinated, along with residents and staff of long-term care facilities. COVID-19 vaccine for the general public is expected to be available in spring or summer. We have published an estimated timeline for when people can expect to be vaccinated. However, that timeline is likely to change depending on how many vaccines Idaho receives and how many people decide to get it.

When the vaccine is available to their priority group, Idahoans will be able to get the vaccine through normal vaccination locations such as their employer, physician’s office, local public health district, or local pharmacy. See the timeline and learn more on the vaccine page on the state’s coronavirus website.

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An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Funding for Elmore County; Improving experiences for those we serve; and the COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Idaho

Before 2020, the end of a year would bring up good memories of times shared, reflecting on accomplishments and milestones, and making plans to celebrate the new year with family and friends. It’s probably safe to say, people may feel a little differently about 2020.

Even though this year has tried our souls in every way possible, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Idaho and healthcare workers across the state are now receiving their vaccines. Many people have questions related to the vaccine, and when they might get a vaccine. The best way to keep updated is by visiting the coronavirus.idaho.gov website. There, you can find the following:

And more … the website is robust and contains a lot of information. I encourage you to spend some time on the site when you have questions about our response to the pandemic. Odds are good we have answered your question, or we will when we have the information. We are committed to full transparency when it comes to vaccine distribution, and DHW will share information with you as soon as possible. That’s a promise.

Continue reading “An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Funding for Elmore County; Improving experiences for those we serve; and the COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Idaho”

COVID-19 Q&A: Idaho’s vaccine distribution plan

Coming up at 10 a.m. Wednesday: Facebook Live with Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program. Send your vaccine distribution questions ahead of time to Communications@dhw.idaho.gov or watch live on Wednesday and type your vaccine distribution questions into the comments. We will answer as many on-topic questions as we can until 10:25, when Sarah has to join another meeting. We’ll consider off-topic questions for future FB Live events. Join us!

Q: When is COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Idaho and how many doses will the state get initially?

A: COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is arriving in Idaho this week, and by the end of the week the state is expecting to have received all or most of our initial allotment of 13,650 doses of the ultra-cold vaccine. The initial shipments are for healthcare workers, and then later this month, residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

Q: Who gets COVID-19 vaccine first?

A: Phase 1a includes healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Skilled nurses and those working in assisted living and intermediate care facilities are counted as healthcare workers in this phase.

More specifically, the initial shipment of vaccine is destined for hospital staff and outpatient clinic staff who provide care for COVID-19 patients. The facilities will determine a schedule for their workers.

The Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee (CVAC) has made recommendations on which populations should be prioritized for Phase 1b. The decision will ultimately be made by Gov. Brad Little.

CVAC is recommending that Phase 1b of the vaccination plan include essential workers not included in Phase 1a. CVAC is recommending the following types of essential workers be prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1b in the following order:

  • First responders, including fire, police, protective services and community support personnel.
  • Pre-K-12 school staff and teachers and daycare workers
  • Correctional and detention facility staff, except medical staff already in Phase 1a
  • Food processing workers
  • Grocery and convenience store workers
  • Idaho National Guard
  • Other essential workers not already included and unable to telework or social distance at work

The list of recommended priority groups can be found on the coronavirus website at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/CVAC-Prioritization-for-HCP-and-Essential-Workers.pdf

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Crisis standards of care and encouraging personal responsibility: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

An update on DHW’s special board meeting

This morning, the Idaho Board of Health and Welfare met to review and vote on an administrative rule for crisis standards of care. Members considered and approved a new temporary rule that allows for the timely activation of crisis standards of care.

This new chapter outlines the circumstances under which crisis standards of care would be implemented (e.g. pandemic, natural disaster, or an extraordinary event or circumstance that overwhelms Idaho’s usual health and medical capabilities). Crisis standards of care could be implemented if Idaho’s healthcare systems become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. This means that you (or a family member) might not get the normal or standard care needed if you were in an accident or had a healthcare emergency.

None of us want to get to that point. I would ask all of us to choose to support our doctors, nurses, and healthcare systems. So what do we, as Idahoans, need to do to protect Idaho’s healthcare system and our access to it? That’s right – wear a mask, keep 6 feet between you and people who don’t live with you, wash your hands often, and stay home as much as possible, especially if you are sick. If all of us do this, we can avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. 

Gov. Brad Little asks Idahoans to “make the right choice”

As Gov. Brad Little stated at his press conference yesterday, “If Idaho activates the crisis standards of care, you or someone you love could be denied care or given a lower standard of care … If your son or daughter gets in a car accident, there may not be a bed for them. They may have to wait. If your wife has diabetes and develops an infection, there may not be a bed for her. If your husband has a heart attack, there may not be a bed for him.”

I want to echo Gov. Little’s calls for action and for personal responsibility. We are asking all Idahoans to choose to keep small businesses open and our kids in school, and to protect healthcare workers and our economy. I appreciate everyone who is setting the example in their communities by respecting others and wearing a mask and following the recommended precautions.

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COVID Q&A: Getting vaccinated

How will people know when to get vaccinated?

The Idaho Coronavirus Vaccine Advisory Committee will be discussing this issue in meetings that will be open to the public, and decisions will be publicized through press releases, social media, blog posts like this one, and information at coronavirus.idaho.gov.

If I’ve already had COVID-19, do I need to get vaccinated, too?

There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this. However, if you have recovered from COVID-19, you may want to wait until others have had a chance to get the vaccine and build some immunity before you consider getting vaccinated.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? Are they similar to other vaccines?

We are going to learn a lot more about this, as FDA releases data this week about the first (Pfzer/BioNTech) vaccine. What we do know so far is that people have reported soreness in the arm after vaccination, headache, fatigue, a general cruddy feeling and achiness, and in a few cases more severe fatigue. Most of these symptoms have cleared up after a couple of days. They are very similar to side effects reported for other vaccines. No serious side effects have been reported to date.

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COVID-19 vaccine recommendations and a groundbreaking child welfare system: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Today, the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee made a recommendation about which populations should be prioritized for Phases 1a and 1b in Idaho’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. The recommendation will be delivered to Gov. Brad Little, who will make the final decisions.

CVAC is recommending Phase 1a include healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Skilled nurses and those working in assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities are counted as healthcare workers in this phase.

CVAC is recommending the following types of essential workers being prioritized for vaccination in Phase 1b:

  • First responders, including fire, police, protective services and community support personnel
  • Pre-K through 12th grade school staff and teachers and daycare workers
  • Correctional and detention facility staff, except medical staff already in Phase 1a
  • Food processing workers
  • Grocery and convenience store workers
  • Idaho National Guard
  • Other essential workers not already included and unable to telework or social distance at work

Idaho is expecting to receive approximately 13,650 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine by mid-December in its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, and then additional doses in the two weeks after that. Equal numbers of second doses will be shipped a couple of weeks after the first doses for people who received those. It takes about two weeks for the human body to build immunity after a vaccine.

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