AARP town hall

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen (left), Gov. Brad Little and AARP Idaho Director Lupe Wissel take questions from Facebook and phone lines during the AARP town hall on Feb. 2.

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Gov. Brad Little asked Idahoans to be patient with the limited number of available COVID-19 vaccines over the next weeks and months.

Little and state Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen fielded concerns about the state’s vaccine rollout to residents over the age of 65 during the weekly AARP town hall call. More than a quarter-million Idahoans currently qualify to receive the vaccine but the state is receiving about 25,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccines each week.

“Anyone that wants to get the vaccine, you will be able to do so. It’s going to take a little time, maybe even a couple months to get through this whole group, but we will work through it,” Jeppesen said.

AARP Idaho Director Lupe Wissel said she had heard from many AARP members that it was impossible to find open times to register for vaccine appointments, whether in the next few days or out into April. People who called into the event Tuesday also expressed frustration with the current limitations on setting up vaccine appointments.

“The way it’s set up now really inspires anxiety in the people of Idaho who are trying to get a vaccination because there is no way of knowing if you’re ever going to get on a list or when you can try to get on the list,” a caller from Boise said.

Jeppesen said that many facilities had limited how far in advance appointments were scheduled because there was still uncertainty about the number of vaccines arriving each week. He advised that people check for available times over the weekends or on Monday mornings to see if new availabilities had come up for that week.

Little said he would continue efforts for Idaho to obtain more vaccines over the next weeks. He asked residents not to make multiple appointments with different potential vaccine providers and emphasized the need for fair vaccine access across Idaho.

“There are areas of the state right now where there is vaccine available. But here in the Treasure Valley, where there is a big population and a huge demand, it’s going to be a while before we work through this pipeline,” Little said.

The White House announced Tuesday that it would begin sending an additional, smaller number of vaccines directly to pharmacies next week so they can provide those doses beginning Feb. 11. Little estimated the direct shipments to pharmacies would add around another 2,000 vaccines to Idaho during the first week.

Earlier Tuesday, Little had announced that Idaho would move back into Stage 3 of the Idaho Rebounds reopening plan. The new phase allows for gatherings of up to 50 people at most events. Larger exceptions are in place for religious or political events, youth sports and places that submit plans for mass gatherings to the public health district.

While Idaho’s case numbers and COVID test positivity rates have declined since mid-December, the numbers for hospitalizations and ICU stays are above the cutoff measures put in place over the summer for a move to Stage 3. Little said that he and the state coronavirus advisory committee had shifted what metrics were required to maintain hospital capacity and avoid implementing crisis standards of care.

“Some of those we have been above for a long time, but some we might never get below until we get more vaccines,” Little said.

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