Initial Idaho COVID-19 vaccine rollout expected within weeks

After a COVID-19 vaccine is officially approved, Idaho is expected to receive its first shipment, possibly as soon as mid-December.

BOISE, Idaho — The status of Idaho’s initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout is expected to be only weeks away.

Dr. Patrice Burgess, chair of Gov. Brad Little’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee and executive medical director for Saint Alphonsus Health System, told KTVB on Thursday that Idaho could get its first shipment of the vaccine by mid-December.

“We are very well positioned,” Burgess said. “The dates are looking pretty good as far as the December 15th timeframe for our first allotment.”

Little had previously mentioned that frontline medical workers would be part of the group to first get a vaccine. According to Burgess, recent conversations on the federal and local level have led to another group getting early vaccine consideration.

“To include long term care facilities and their staff and residents early on, so we are really looking at those two groups as some of the first groups,” she said.

There have been questions about what the flow of vaccine shipments into Idaho will look like. The committee has a good indication of that plan.

“The good news is we are going to be getting more and more vaccine week by week,” Burgess said. “So, it won’t be too long before we will be able to vaccinate anybody that really wants to have a vaccine. It will just be those early weeks that we will have to prioritize groups because of the limited supply.”

The exact dates that Idaho will get vaccine shipments are dependent on the current approval process, though the advisory committee is already working on specific logistics to make sure Idaho communities are ready to receive shipments.

One example, the first vaccine expected to be approved and shipped is manufactured by Pfizer and needs to be kept in extreme cold storage of negative 70 degrees Celsius.

“As far as the cold storage, the health departments have ordered ultra-cold storage for each of the seven districts,” Burgess said.

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Similar to how the federal government will allot vaccines to the states proportionally, Idaho is working to create a statewide distribution plan that is balanced.

“Making sure that there is equity, we want to make sure our rural areas get the same access that our urban areas do,” Burgess said. “All of our different groups of folks by demographics so that it is fairly distributed to the people that need it in the right equitable way.”

The advisory committee is also working on transparent education for Idahoans in an effort to get as many people as possible vaccinated. They know there are a lot of questions about things like side effects, for example.

“There are some minor side effects much like you would have, or some people will have, with the flu vaccine,” Burgess explained. “You might get a little body ache or headache the day after, but they have been very limited to 24 hours or less.”

Burgess cautions that the COVID-19 vaccine is not an immediate silver bullet cure for the pandemic, and people need to continue to follow health guidelines. She added that, while it’s great news that a vaccine is just around the corner, it’s important that people make the effort to get vaccinated.

“When you think about the governor’s phases of reopening the economy, are based on community spread,” she said. “So anything we can do to slow down community spread will help us get to that next phase of reopening.’

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