COVID-19: New services for Idahoans who want to quit tobacco

All Idahoans who want to quit tobacco products, including cigarettes, chew, and vapes, have access to free programs to help them on their quit journey. In addition to the current programs for adults, youth, pregnant women, and tribal members who have decided it’s time to quit, the Department of Health and Welfare and Project Filter are pleased to provide a free and enhanced tobacco cessation program for adults 18 and older who are living with conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, and substance use disorders.

Communities are facing increased mental health challenges during the pandemic, including stress, depression, suicidal ideation, and higher substance use. Quitting tobacco improves mental health and can provide people with the tools to quit other substance addictions as well.

People who report mental health and substance use disorders also have higher rates of tobacco use and lower rates of quitting. In fact, more than one-third of all tobacco used in the United States is consumed by people who also have a behavioral health condition.

More than half of QuitLine callers report at least one condition and nearly 1 in 3 callers report multiple behavioral health conditions that impact their ability to quit tobacco. People with behavioral health conditions may want to quit, but they often need more intensive support to help with stress.

As part of the new program, participants receive:

  • Seven scheduled telephone coaching sessions over three months, focused on coping techniques to manage stress, and development of a personalized quit plan.
  • Specially trained tobacco treatment coaches who understand behavioral health conditions.
  • Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) for 8 weeks with combinations of patch, gum, or lozenges.
  • A personalized welcome package including educational materials and the My Quit Journey© workbook.
  • A suite of eHealth services to supplement telephone coaching, including customized email and text messages, online chat, and interactive online resources.
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COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine administered vs. distributed, new online resource, new vaccines, and getting vaccinated after COVID

Q: Where are the COVID-19 vaccine doses Idaho has received but not administered?

A: Vaccine doses are sent directly from the manufacturers to the providers, based on orders they receive from the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW). DHW places orders for the vaccine as soon as they are available based on discussions with the local public health districts. The local public health districts are in contact with vaccine providers in their counties. DHW is not storing any doses or holding any doses back.

If doses that have already been administered are not showing up in Idaho’s Immunization Reminder Information System (IRIS), it could be because there is a slight data lag (providers have 72 hours to submit data about administration of each dose), or because providers have not administered them yet. Staff are also troubleshooting some technical issues we have discovered with IRIS and other data vendors that have caused some data for doses administered to not show up in IRIS. We have hired additional staff to help find those corrupt files and fix them so they show up in IRIS.

Q: Where can I find information to schedule an appointment for get a vaccine?  

A: Idaho launched a new COVID-19 vaccination information web page on Friday to help Idahoans more easily find information on when and where to get vaccinated and what to expect when they get to their appointment. The new web page is It’s also available by link at

Local public health districts are responsible for implementing vaccination plans. Enrolled COVID-19 vaccine provider information is available on each public health district website, but the new state web page offers just one place where all Idahoans can find out when they are eligible to receive the vaccine and where to access enrolled COVID-19 vaccine provider organizations in their area.

The state web page also tells Idahoans which priority groups, by occupation and age, are next in line for the vaccine. It will be updated on a regular basis.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Scheduling an appointment for vaccine and what to expect

Q: How can I schedule an appointment to get a vaccine?

A: Idahoans who are prioritized for vaccine right now include healthcare workers, residents and staff in long-term care facilities, first responders (including law enforcement officers and dispatchers), pre-K–12th grade teachers and staff, childcare staff, correctional and detention facility staff, behavioral health workers, and clergy who enter healthcare facilities to provide religious support to patients.

You can see an estimated timeline at

The local public health districts are managing vaccine administration at the local level, and at this point, vaccine administration has been scheduled and coordinated with the employers of those included in the current priority groups.

We expect to be able to start vaccinating those who are 65 and older starting Feb. 1. The local public health districts are establishing systems to help individuals identify vaccine clinics where they can schedule an appointment.

We have discussed in public how we have explored the functionality of a tool called PrepMod. However, we found it to be redundant with what is happening locally. So instead of this tool, we are enhancing our website to point to the local public health district websites and call centers where individuals can get find and schedule appointments for the vaccine clinics in their area. More to come on that soon. PrepMod remains an important scheduling and management tool for many vaccine providers across the state.

Contact your local public health district if you have questions, but please know that they may not have all the answers just yet. We’re working together to get you those answers as quickly as possible.

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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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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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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 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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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

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 Q&A: COVID-19 Vaccine

Q: Vaccines for COVID-19 seem to be getting closer to the necessary approvals so they can be distributed to states and then given to residents. Is Idaho ready to receive the vaccine shipments?  

A: Idaho will be ready when the first shipments of the vaccine are sent. We don’t know yet exactly when that will happen, but we anticipate it could be before the end of the year. We have been enrolling healthcare providers, so they can administer the vaccine, and we have purchased seven ultra-cold freezers – one for each of Idaho’s seven local public health districts, to help store vaccines that need to be kept very cold prior to being used throughout the state.

The vaccine will be shipped after Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but will not be administered in the state until a recommendation on its use is issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). It is anticipated that the ACIP recommendation will occur very quickly after the FDA approval. 

The manufacturer of one of the vaccines (Pfizer and BioNTech) requested an EUA on Nov. 20. The FDA’s Vaccine’s & Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) is scheduled to review vaccine data from the manufacturer on Dec. 10 and make a recommendation to the FDA. If the FDA issues an EUA, then ACIP will hold an emergency meeting to consider recommendations for use of the vaccine. Immediately after ACIP’s recommendation, vaccine would be shipped to other vaccine providers from the vaccine manufacturer.

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COVID-19 Q&A: Hospital capacity, getting tested, and Thanksgiving

Q: I keep hearing that hospital officials in Idaho are very concerned about capacity, and they might have to implement crisis standards of care. What does that mean? If I needed life-saving care, would a hospital really turn me away?

A: We have been emphasizing this since the start of the pandemic: Hospitals, including those in Idaho, have limited capacity. When they no longer have enough staff or beds or equipment to treat patients, they will have to divert patients to other hospitals, turn people away if other hospitals are not accepting diverted patients, and possibly set up field hospitals. Healthcare will have to be rationed. Idaho has a Crisis Standards of Care Plan that outlines what this looks like and what would trigger it to be implemented.

However, we don’t want to get to that point!  We can PREVENT it by following the recommended guidelines and wearing a mask when we’re around others who don’t live with us, keeping 6 feet between ourselves and others we don’t live with, washing or sanitizing our hands often, and staying home if we feel sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a scientific brief that says that mask-wearing protects others, but it also protects the person wearing it. That’s new, and worth remembering. It’s a very small sacrifice to wear a mask, and when most of us do, it lowers the risk of infection for all of us. That also helps our hospitals and healthcare workers. Fewer people get sick and require hospital-level care, which can be provided when it’s needed.

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COVID Q&A: Family gatherings are COVID-19 hotspots

Q: Where is Idaho seeing the most spread of COVID-19?

A: Public health officials are seeing the most spread in Idaho at smaller gatherings of families and friends, where people are not following the recommended guidelines. We understand — it feels weird to wear a mask around people you know and love. But the reality is that the virus doesn’t care how strange or uncomfortable it feels to stay 6 feet apart and to wear a mask around your friends and family. It will take advantage of the situation and spread among your loved ones if precautions are not taken.

Asymptomatic spread is the most complicated part of the coronavirus. Sometimes people just don’t know they have been infected and they unwittingly infect their friends and family. The solution is simple – everyone should wear face coverings and stay 6 feet apart. It’s very important to be diligent about those simple things to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

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