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.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine supply, and how to volunteer”

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.

Continue reading “From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Update on the COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho”

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.

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

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.

Continue reading “COVID Q&A: Vaccine distribution and administration in Idaho”

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.

Continue reading “COVID Q&A: Getting vaccinated”

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.

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

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.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: COVID-19 Vaccine”

From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Celebrate Thanksgiving safely and an update on our strategic plan

In the past week, Idaho’s COVID-19 case count was above 1,000 for six out of seven days. On Nov. 17, Idaho recorded 35 deaths, the highest number to date for one day since the beginning of the pandemic. This is heartbreaking. It is unacceptable. We can do better. We have to do better.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it is a cause for concern. Gatherings have shown to be a main source for the spread of new cases. Traditionally, my wife and I host our extended family Thanksgiving dinner. Just last week, I had difficult conversations with my mom and other family members letting them know that we would not be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our home. And I strongly encouraged them to celebrate Thanksgiving with their immediate households. I want to keep my family safe. I want them to be healthy for future holidays, so this is small sacrifice for the greater good.

The best and safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is with only the members of your household. Virtual activities are also completely safe. If you do celebrate in-person with people outside of your household it’s very important to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus.

We know what helps limit the spread of COVID-19: wearing a mask, physical distancing, washing your hands, avoiding social gatherings and large crowds, and staying home when sick. These are the most effective tools we have to fight this virus and protect our families and friends, keep our hospitals operating within their capacity, and protect our small businesses.

Hospitals in Idaho and throughout the United States are getting stretched very thin. Widespread holiday gatherings, especially ones in which the above precautions are not taken, could make a difficult situation much worse. Please be safe this Thanksgiving and do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Continue reading “From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Celebrate Thanksgiving safely and an update on our strategic plan”

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.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Hospital capacity, getting tested, and Thanksgiving”

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Idaho, Gov. Little announces a return to Stage 2: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

The daily number of cases in the United States is now soaring; over 160,000 just yesterday. In Idaho, we have had day after day of more than 1,000 new cases. On Wednesday, Nov. 11, we had 1,693 new cases in Idaho, the highest number in one day. This can’t continue. It must not continue. Our friends and our neighbors are getting sick. Our frontline workers are stressed. Our hospitals are reaching capacity, which means that they may not be able to provide life-saving care when it’s needed. I know this is not what we all want for Idaho.

Earlier today, Gov. Brad Little announced that Idaho is returning to a modified Stage 2. This includes:

  • Limiting gatherings, both public and private, to less than 10 people, where appropriate physical distancing and precautionary measures can occur. Religious and political institutions are excluded.
  • Physical distance of six feet is required between you and anyone not in your household.
  • Continuing to require masks to be worn at all long-term care facilities.
  • Asking restaurant patrons to be seated at all times (when not using the restroom or entering or exiting the establishment).
  • Encouraging employers to allow their employees to telework.
  • Minimizing non-essential travel.

Additionally, Gov. Little signed a new executive order to mobilize the national guard (100 guardsmen) to help as needed to expand Idaho’s ability to access critical care statewide (e.g. facility decontamination, supply distribution, COVID-19 screenings, etc.).

At the Governor’s press conference, we heard from a young mother, Amelia, who had contracted COVID-19 while she was pregnant and a St. Luke’s respiratory therapist, Rachel, who cares for COVID-19 patients, including Amelia. Their heartfelt pleas to follow recommended precautions and wear masks resonated with me, and I hope it resonated with you.

As Rachel (St. Luke’s) said, “We are a community. We need to take care of each other. The nurses are members of this community. I want to protect you, and I want you to protect me. I am begging you as a healthcare provider; help us take care of each other.”

Her plea is timely. As you may have read, St. Luke’s Health System announced Thursday that in order to proactively manage its capacity for care, it will temporarily stop scheduling certain elective surgeries and procedures that can be delayed 90 or more days without negative consequences. This temporary pause goes into effect Monday, Nov. 16, and will be in place for the next six weeks until Friday, Dec. 25. This is the reality of what is happening in Idaho. We must do all we can to protect our own families, slow the spread of COVID-19, and preserve healthcare capacity.

Continue reading “As COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Idaho, Gov. Little announces a return to Stage 2: An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen”