An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The news this week that there have been six reported cases of a rare and severe blood clot in women between the ages of 18 and 48 who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not the kind of news we welcome, but I am reassured, as I hope you are, that recommending a pause in the use of the vaccine was the right thing to do and helps show that we all take vaccine safety very seriously.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) issued a press release recommending that Idaho vaccine providers not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until more information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This recommendation was made after receiving information that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recommended a pause in the use of that vaccine and are reviewing the data for the six reported cases. All 50 states have made this same recommendation.

On Wednesday, April 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met and did not put forth any formal recommendations during this meeting. Voting members are waiting for additional data for a more robust risk-benefit analysis, and that should be available to them next week. Additional discussion may address restrictions for vaccine use in highest risk populations, possibly by age or gender.

Although this is not news we were expecting, this is exactly what is supposed to happen with any new vaccine or drug or protocol: if there is an unexpected adverse reaction, there is a pause to review the data and then refine recommendations. The safety system in the United States works. The FDA and the CDC made the right decision to temporarily halt the use of this vaccine.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: We are focused on sharing accurate and timely information related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccines

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) spends time every day making sure we share accurate and timely information in various ways including: our weekly media briefings, our website, social media, and answering questions directly from members of the public and the media.

The reality is that telling the truth saves lives. When Idahoans have access to accurate information, they can make informed decisions about their own health and the health of their families and communities. We continue to remain dedicated to keeping the people of Idaho safe through accurate information.

I would encourage you to use trusted sources for information when sharing COVID-related information. You can find the latest and most accurate information on COVID-19 at the following websites, as well as on the department’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter:

Data Dashboards

The DHW data teams have worked diligently every day to make sure Idahoans have the data they need to make informed decisions during the past year. We have made some changes to how often the data on the dashboards will be updated to allow them to have weekends off. The new update schedule for the data dashboards is as follows:

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: I’m Encouraging all Idahoans to Choose to get the COVID-19 Vaccine

I want to encourage you to choose to get your COVID-19 vaccine. Starting Monday, April 5, all Idahoans 16 and older are eligible to get the vaccine through enrolled vaccine providers in Idaho.

You can sign up today at covidvaccine.idaho.gov, and a vaccine provider will call you to schedule your appointment. Thanks to Idaho’s pre-registration system, you don’t have make numerous calls or visit numerous locations to get your vaccine. We will do the work for you.

Choosing to get the COVID-19 vaccine will help keep you from getting COVID-19. It protects you from very serious illness and hospitalization if you do get infected. Choosing to get vaccinated protects the people around you, especially your family members and friends who are at increased risk of getting severe illness from COVID-19. And choosing to get vaccinated is the best shot we have to keep our kids in the classroom, protect jobs, and return to normal.

The COVID-19 vaccines have been carefully evaluated and are safe and effective. On April 1, 100 COVID-19 infections had been reported among fully vaccinated people in Idaho. These infections represent less than 0.5% of the Idahoans who are now fully vaccinated.

To date, more than 298,000 Idahoans (this includes those who work in Idaho) have been fully vaccinated. This number is those people who have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If you have any questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, you can visit our FAQ page which is updated regularly.

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From Director Dave Jeppesen: Listening to the public during a pandemic; All Idahoans 16 and older eligible for the vaccine on April 5

Listening to the public during a pandemic – and providing answers that make a difference

The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) has a long history of providing services and reliable information to Idahoans. Even so, we knew from the early days of the pandemic that we couldn’t simply rely on decades of experience and our tried-and-tested communication practices with Idahoans and our partners. This is because we have all faced new challenges every day, that have affected each of us in different ways. We realized we had to listen in new ways.

So last April, we made the most of what 2020 had to offer, and we took to communicating with digital formats. We began a new listening initiative, where we made our subject matter experts available to the public to answer questions. One of these initiatives makes Facebook Live videos a weekly priority. We invite questions from the public, and each week one of our staff members goes live on Facebook with their answers. Our communications staff keep an eye on the comments in the video feeds as well, and stay engaged to make sure we understand whether we are getting it right – are we answering your questions? Are we providing the information you need that will help you to navigate through these uncertain times?

We have broadcast 43 Facebook Live events since April 2020, and we continue to listen to questions and share information in the videos. The topics we cover depend on what we are hearing from Idahoans: Is the vaccine safe? How does the Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System work? What is my vaccine priority group? What will the pandemic do to our mental health, and what can we do to cope?

We consider the questions and identify the experts within our ranks who know the answers. Depending on the questions we hear, our featured experts may specialize in immunizations, epidemiology, behavioral health, public health recommendations such as what kinds of gatherings are higher or lower in risk, and more.

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A Reminder from Director Dave Jeppesen: Choosing to get the COVID-19 Vaccine Will Protect Your Friends, Family, and Community

As we catch a glimpse of normalcy returning to Idaho, we are feeling a sense of hope due to the arrival of three effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines. March Madness is back, friends and family are planning summer vacations, and Sunday dinners with vaccinated grandparents are (mostly) back on schedule.

But hope is fragile. It is based on our belief systems and our choices. It is based on the expectation of a positive ending. In this case, the end of the pandemic.

Hope, for me, is based on the choices thousands of Idahoans are making every day. Idahoans are choosing to get the vaccine. They are choosing to protect their friends, family, and community. They are choosing to keep schools open, support local businesses, and believe in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.  

I am encouraging all Idahoans to choose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines have been tested by more than 70,000 Americans. Millions of Americans have now received the vaccine. It is safe and effective.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Marking the milestone one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in Idaho

The one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Idaho is coming up on Saturday, March 13.

For many of us, it’s been the longest year of our lives. We’ve sacrificed gatherings with family and friends, hugs and in-person time with grandma and grandpa and other people at high-risk for serious illness, as well as travel and vacations. We have learned to work from home, or had our work dramatically reduced or stopped, and had our lives mostly upended by this insidious virus.

Many of us weren’t able to watch our kids at their sporting events and competitions. We’ve worn masks whenever we’re in public places where we can’t maintain at least 6 feet between us.

And too many of us have made the greatest involuntary sacrifice of all with the COVID-related death of a loved one.

I want to thank you all for the sacrifices you’ve made in the past year because of the pandemic. I know it has not been easy.

But I am encouraged by recent trends in COVID-19 data. Testing percent positivity is less than 5 percent and has been for the past couple of weeks. Case numbers have fallen and now seem to be leveling off. Hospitalizations have decreased. The number of Idahoans getting vaccinated increases each day.

Every day, we’re getting closer to getting back to normal.

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A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System launched today

Due to overwhelming demand for the COVID-19 vaccine, many Idahoans have been unable to make an appointment to get a vaccination. Overwhelmed phone lines and websites at the public health districts and enrolled provider organizations has been frustrating for Idahoans. They have expressed their frustration on social media, in emails, and in phone calls.

Gov. Brad Little announced today through a press release that the State of Idaho has created a new COVID-19 vaccine appointment pre-registration solution to help alleviate the frustration of many Idahoans in trying to make an appointment to get the vaccine. The new system, called Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System, makes it easy for Idahoans to put their names on a waiting list.

This system allows Idahoans (and those who work in Idaho) who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to save their names to a statewide list. Vaccine providers can then easily find people who want the vaccine. By adding your name to the list, you are telling vaccine providers that you are interested in receiving the vaccine. You can add your name now, and you will be notified when you are eligible to receive the vaccine and a provider has vaccine available.

The new COVID-19 vaccine appointment pre-registration system is available at https://covidvaccine.idaho.gov/.

The new system is user-friendly. The instructions are in plain language. It was been built from the ground up, specifically for Idahoans.

I want to echo Gov. Little’s words – all Idahoans who choose to get the COVID-19 will be able to do so. It is our top priority.

One quick reminder: if you are in a priority group that is currently receiving the vaccine (e.g. 65 and older), make sure you pre-register through the new system so that an enrolled provider in your area can reach out to you and schedule your vaccine appointment.

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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working to prevent suicide in Idaho; Requiring proof of residency or work for COVID-19 vaccination

Training 25,000 Idahoans to help prevent suicide

Suicide is a critical public health issue in Idaho. It brings tragic loss to families, friends, schools, and entire communities across the state each year. In 2018, Idaho had the 5th highest suicide rate in the U.S. There were nearly 24 suicides per 100,000 Idahoans. Despite this dark statistic, we can progress toward a brighter future because suicide is preventable.

Everyone in Idaho has an important role to play in changing these statistics. We, at the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), are working toward a future where there are zero suicides in Idaho.

In our work toward this goal, one of our DHW strategic objectives is to reduce Idaho’s suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025. Part of this goal includes helping to deliver suicide awareness and prevention training, alongside our partners, to 25,000 Idahoans between 2018 and June 30, 2021. And we are nearly there. As of Feb. 11, we are 91 percent of the way to this goal; 22,763 Idahoans have participated in the training programs offered through our partnerships.

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From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Idaho is working on a vaccine pre-registration solution to help match Idahoans with enrolled vaccine providers

We know you are frustrated

When Gov. Brad Little and I answered questions last Tuesday at the AARP Telephone Town-hall, we heard numerous Idahoans express their frustration at being unable to make a vaccine appointment because of overwhelmed phone lines and websites at the local public health districts and enrolled provider organizations.

The biggest issue, as we all are aware, is that the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine is not meeting the demand in Idaho and across the country. The allotment from our federal partners doesn’t meet the needs of Americans at this time. That is a frustration we, and many other states, are feeling. We are working with our federal partners, and we are hopeful this will change over time.

So I want to let you know that I hear you. I understand your frustration. Under Gov. Brad Little’s direction, DHW teams are working on a vaccine pre-registration solution. It will save you time and worry. When it is available, we will let you know through all available channels. Your ability to get a vaccine – should you choose to do so – is our top priority.

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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Transparency data now available; working to meet the demand for the COVID-19 vaccine

On Monday, Idaho began publishing a vaccine administration transparency data dashboard thanks to Gov. Brad Little’s Executive Order. The new tool shows the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses that individual providers and local public health districts have been distributed and the number of doses that remain for them to administer.

There are two “data dashboards” now – you can find the buttons to both of them on the home page of the coronavirus website. The button that provides enrolled provider vaccine administration data is called Vaccine Administration Transparency Data. The button that outlines data related to Idahoans getting the vaccine is called the COVID-19 Vaccine Data Dashboard.

Some details to keep in mind as you look at the new dashboard:

  • “Distributed doses” include first and second doses. Some doses that appear to have not been administered yet may be scheduled for an appointment or may not be reported in the state’s immunization system yet because providers have 72 hours to report after a dose has been given.
  • The number of doses that remain to be administered could include a share of second doses that arrived early and cannot be administered yet because the second dose must be given at least 21 days for Pfizer and 28 days for Moderna after the first use.
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