An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A time to celebrate

I want to publicly congratulate Lori Wolff on her new appointment by Gov. Brad Little to be the administrator for the Idaho Division of Human Resources. Lori is currently a deputy director in the Department of Health and Welfare. She has had several very important roles at DHW since she started with the department 18 years ago. We can point to many accomplishments for the people of Idaho that are linked directly back to her vision, guidance, and work, but I’ll highlight just one specifically.

The eligibility process – where someone in crisis must prove income and other requirements for certain benefit programs – historically had been arduous in Idaho and it still is in many states. Because of Lori’s leadership, persistence, expertise, and guidance, Idaho has an eligibility process that is so efficient that people who walk into a DHW office lobby with a need for assistance can often walk back out those doors the same day with a decision and access to those benefits. If a decision cannot be reached the same day, it’s almost always within two days.

The state of Idaho is one of only a few states that streamlines the eligibility process for programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, TANF, and others, so there is no need for someone to be evaluated multiple times for eligibility for each individual program. They are evaluated once, and then can access those services so they can start working toward self-reliance as quickly as possible. In other states, the wait can be up to 30 days.

We will miss Lori at DHW, but I am sure she will be great in her new role at DHR. I am looking forward to seeing the new ways she will have an impact on helping Idahoans live their best lives.

Continue reading “An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: A time to celebrate”

COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine for 12-15 year-olds

When can a 12-15 year-old receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

Today! Or whenever it’s convenient. As of May 12, 2021, adolescents 12-15 years old can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are given in the same dosage as for adults: two 0.3 mL doses of vaccine 21 days apart.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective for adolescents 12-15?  

Yes. COVID-19 vaccine has been administered during clinical trials to more than 1,000 adolescents ages 12-15 years old. None of the adolescents in the phase 3 clinical trials had unusual or severe reactions to the vaccine. Of those in the trial who received the vaccine, zero adolescents contracted COVID-19, while 18 adolescents in the placebo group contracted COVID-19.

What are the most likely side effects for adolescents?

The most common side effects of the vaccine among adolescents were similar to those for older adolescents and adults: sore arm at the injection site, swollen lymph nodes, headache, chills, mild fever, and fatigue. Over the counter medications can be given to adolescents after their vaccine to alleviate these symptoms, if they occur.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine for 12-15 year-olds”

COVID-19 Q&A: Traveling during the pandemic

As summer approaches, and beaches and campsites beckon, it’s still important to keep in mind that we are not out of the woods yet as far as the pandemic goes. Travel is possible, with a little homework ahead of time and adherence to precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19.

However, please don’t travel if you were recently exposed to COVID-19you are sick, you test positive for COVID-19, or you are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test. And please don’t travel with someone who is sick.

Q: Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine while I’m in Idaho for vacation?

A: Yes – Idaho has lifted its restriction that people have to live or work in the state to get vaccinated. Everyone ages 16 and older can get vaccinated in Idaho, regardless of where they live or work. Vaccine eligibility is expected to be expanded to include 12-15 year-olds later this week,

Q: What if I am not yet fully vaccinated or vaccinated at all and must travel?  

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated, because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.

For those who are not fully vaccinated and must travel, the CDC recommends the following steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Before you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. Don’t travel if the test is positive.
  • While you are traveling:
    • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
    • Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
    • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • After you travel:
    • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.
      • Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.
      • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
    • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
    • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.
    • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
    • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements.
Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Traveling during the pandemic”

A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working together toward a new normal

COVID-19, no matter who you are or where you live, has changed your life. But as the rate of infections begin to slow in Idaho (only about 10 cases per 100,000 residents) and more and more Idahoans choose to get vaccinated each day, the signs of recovery are everywhere. More activities are taking place, vacations are being planned, and more and more people are slowly returning to their pre-pandemic lives.

And, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently eased its guidelines on wearing masks outdoors for fully vaccinated people: no need to cover your face anymore unless you are in a big crowd of people. That’s good news for the more than 500,000 fully vaccinated Idahoans.

The new normal looks and means something different to each of us. For me, it’s time with my grandkids.

In Idaho today, we are still working diligently to help those who choose to get vaccinated to be able to do so at their convenience. Those 16 and older are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. There is no cost to you, and it is now more convenient than ever to get the vaccine. If you choose to get the vaccine, you can do so at your convenience. On the covidvaccine.idaho.gov website, you can:

  • Sign up and have a provider call you
  • Use the vaccine finder and find a walk-in location near you (Walmart, Albertsons, Bi-Mart, Walgreens, Customedica, and Fred Meyer all are accepting walk-in customers)
  • Schedule an appointment at your convenience on line or calling a local provider
Continue reading “A reminder from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Working together toward a new normal”

COVID-Q&A: Grant funding for mobile clinics is now available

In an effort to provide vaccination opportunities to everyone 16 and older where they live, work, and play, the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) announced a new funding opportunity last week to establish and operate mobile, off-site, walk-in, and special COVID-19 vaccination clinics in underserved communities, including racial and ethnic minority populations and rural communities, among others.

Continue reading “COVID-Q&A: Grant funding for mobile clinics is now available”

An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Are you fully vaccinated?

More than 435,000 Idahoans are now fully vaccinated, and another ~146,000 Idahoans have received one dose of a two-dose series. If you are one of the 16 and older Idahoans who have chosen to get the COVID-19 vaccine, I want to thank you for protecting yourself, your family and friends, and your community.

One quick reminder: Anyone 16 and older is now eligible to get the vaccine, and the vaccine is free to you. There are no out-of-pocket costs.

Many people in Idaho have chosen to get the vaccine as soon as it was available. There are others who are busy with kids or work or other priorities and are waiting to get the vaccine when it is more convenient. In the coming weeks, you will see vaccine providers (such as local pharmacies) working to make the vaccine more easily available to you.

You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose in the two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. If you received the J&J vaccine before the pause, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the shot.

What happens after you are fully vaccinated?

If you have been fully vaccinated:

  • You can gather indoors with others who are fully vaccinated, and no mask is needed.
  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.

For now, even if you are fully vaccinated, there are some things that have not changed just yet. For example:

  • You should avoid medium or large gatherings.
  • You should still watch for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You still need to follow guidance at your workplace.
Continue reading “An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Are you fully vaccinated?”

COVID-19 Q&A: Vaccine safety

Q: Can COVID-19 vaccine cause infertility in men and women?

A: There is no scientific evidence to suggest the vaccine causes infertility. In addition, infertility is not known to occur from natural COVID-19 infection, further indicating that immune responses to the virus, whether induced by infection or a vaccine, are not a cause of infertility.

Q: How did COVID-19 vaccines get approved so quickly? Are they safe?

A: Production of the COVID-19 vaccines began sooner than is typical. Normally, production starts after a pharmaceutical company completes the development stage for a vaccine, which includes rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness. Every vaccine goes through a series of reviews and approvals by the FDA and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), among others. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, the federal government invested taxpayer dollars to encourage pharmaceutical companies to start production before the development stage completed.

The vaccines are still going through the same rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness, review, and approval process. However, because pharmaceutical companies began manufacturing the vaccine during the clinical trials, they were able to make the vaccines available as soon as they were given an emergency use authorization.

By all accounts, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective. The recent recommendation for a pause on the Johnson &Johnson vaccine illustrates how seriously Idaho and the rest of the nation takes vaccine safety. Ultimately, vaccines  are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19.

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

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.

Continue reading “An Update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine”

COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson vaccine and severe adverse effects

Q: Why are Idaho and the nation calling for a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

A: The Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is 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 the department received information that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are reviewing data for six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot, combined with low platelet counts, in individuals who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Vaccine safety is the nation’s and Idaho’s No. 1 priority. The CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in administering the vaccine until additional information is available for healthcare providers about evaluation and treatment of this rare adverse event among people who have been vaccinated. The Idaho Immunization Program has notified Idaho providers.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Q&A: Johnson & Johnson vaccine and severe adverse effects”

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:

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