EIRMC COVID-19 vaccination (copy)

James Williams, director of pharmacy at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, prepares doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for staff on Dec. 17, 2020.

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Bucking CDC guidance issued last month, Idaho's vaccine planning panel recommended today that Gov. Brad Little let people 65 and older start receiving COVID-19 shots in the next phase of vaccinations, which is scheduled to start in February, writes Post Register reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel. Currently, Idaho is vaccinating its top-priority group: Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

The state hopes to finish up that group by the end of January, but that’s only if the 130,000 necessary doses of vaccine arrive in time.

Idaho's Coronavirus Vaccine Advisory Committee, or CVAC, had already decided that front-line essential workers, such as first responders, K-12 teachers and prison employees, would be vaccinated in the next phase. But the panel on Friday was presented with the question of what age range of older adults they should allow to also access shots in this phase.

CVAC members voted to let Idahoans age 65 and older, rather than just those 75 and older, get vaccinations in that same phase. The CDC had recommended the 75+ standard, which would have pushed those age 65-74 back to the third tier that starts in April.

"At 65, the hospitalization rate increases, mortality increases," said Dr. David Peterman, CEO of Primary Health Medical Group. "I believe our job is to keep people away from the hospital."

Raising the age brings estimates for people who can access shots in the next phase from 331,000 to 507,000.

The risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 is higher for people 75 and older than they are for 64 and older. But, data and some medical leaders say, the group of people straining hospital resources the most includes everyone older than 65.

You can read Pfannenstiel's full story here at postregister.com, or pick up Saturday's print edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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