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 coronavirus.idaho.gov.

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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An update from DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: New grants available to COVID-19 vaccine provider organizations; Busting myths about vaccines

Gov. Brad Little announced on Tuesday that new COVID-19 Vaccine Capacity, Safety, and Reporting Grants are available and can be used by enrolled vaccine provider organizations to increase staffing to administer shots, purchase needed equipment and supplies, and improve vaccine access for hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations. The amount each enrolled healthcare vaccine provider will receive is based on the number of doses they administer.

The mass vaccination of millions of people throughout the United States is unprecedented. It takes coordination of massive and disparate systems that starts with the manufacturing of the vaccine and ends with a shot in the arm. In addition, the ability of clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and employers to ramp up to meet the demand takes the financial and logistical support of the federal and state government. In Idaho, we want to help our enrolled provider organizations hire medical staff, stand up clinics, and then schedule first and second doses for hundreds of thousands of Idahoans.

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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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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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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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. 

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