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.

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

COVID-19 Q&A: Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System

Join us at 10 a.m. Wednesday on Facebook Live when DHW Deputy Director Lori Wolff will discuss Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration System, and then will take questions from viewers. https://www.facebook.com/IdahoHealthandWelfare

Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Pre-Registration 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 that is available to vaccine providers who have open appointments and COVID-19 vaccine. People can add their names at any time, whether they are currently eligible or not, and a provider will contact them when it’s their turn and there is an open appointment.

The statewide schedule for vaccines has been updated to our website and opens vaccine according to the following schedule:

  • March 15: Age 55-64 with at least one medical condition*
  • March 22: Age 55-64 general population
  • March 29: Age 45-54 with at least one medical condition*
  • April 5: Age 45-54 general population
  • April 12: 16 – 44 with at least one medical condition*
  • April 26: Age 16 – 44 general population

Medical conditions are defined as “are at increased risk” and “might be at increased risk” per the CDC. Visit the CDC to see a full list of conditions that qualify as a medical condition. In addition, disabilities are also included as a medical condition. 

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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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COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

Idaho received 13,300 doses of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine the week of March 1. We are not expecting additional shipments of the vaccine until late March, based on information from the manufacturer and the federal government. It was approved under Emergency Use Authorization on Feb. 27, 2021. On Feb. 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended use of the vaccine in people 18 years and older.

Adding Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine to our toolbox means more people can get vaccinated, which increases the overall population protected from severe disease, hospitalization, and even death.

Having different types of vaccines available for use, especially ones with different dosing recommendations and storage and handling requirements, can offer more options and flexibility for the public and vaccine providers.

Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer and Moderna?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single-dose recombinant (combined genetic material) vector (vehicle) vaccine. Recombinant vaccines use one virus to carry a small piece of genetic material from another virus to trigger an immune response in the body. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified adenovirus to carry the gene for the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) spike protein genetic material. The virus can enter cells but can’t replicate inside them or cause illness. The body’s immune system detects the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and generates antibodies. 

It does not require ultra-cold storage, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do. Storage and handling of this vaccine is similar to many other vaccines. It must be stored at refrigerated temperatures between 36°- 46°F (2°-8°C). It is easy to transport and store and allows for expanded availability in most community settings and mobile sites, as supply scales up.

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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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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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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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