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Jenifer Arizmendi, right, looks on as Crystal Mendoza, RN, vaccinates Arizmendi for influenza and COVID-19 at Terry Reilly Health Services in Nampa on Jan. 7.

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Idaho has risen among state rankings for COVID-19 vaccinations after previously being neck-in-neck with the current lowest-ranking state, Wyoming.

Among states, Idaho ranks 41st in percentage of vaccinated population, with just nine states below it, according to the New York Times. While this may seem unimpressive, the state has seen slow growth in its numbers.

Since the beginning of January, more than 50,000 additional Idahoans have been fully vaccinated, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Of ages 5 and up, 55.2% of Idaho’s population is fully vaccinated compared to the national average of 71%.

Nurse practitioner Bradley Bigford of Table Rock Mobile Medicine has been a voice in the community pushing for Idahoans to get vaccinated. While he hopes for more people to come out and get protected, he hasn’t seen much progress in this area.

“I’m not seeing people with new vaccinations, where they have yet to be vaccinated at all, getting vaccinated,” Bigford said. “I haven’t met anyone like that in the last few months.”

Rather than people with a newfound appreciation for the vaccine, Bigford has seen vaccine appointments for high-risk individuals keeping up with their booster shots.

“They’re the ones that are already vaccinated and getting their boosters,” Bigford said.

Patients who have gotten COVID-19 still seem to stick to their unvaccinated status.

“I’ll ask them if they would consider getting it once they get better, and the unvaccinated always say no,” Bigford said.

The few who are vaccinated tend to be sick for a shorter amount of time, but the majority of COVID-19 patients Bigford sees are unvaccinated.

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Yazmin Delgadillo, MA, prepares a machine for processing COVID-19 PCR tests at Terry Reilly Health Services in Nampa on Jan. 7.

A large deterring factor he hears from patients is their fear of the vaccine.

“They get caught up with unknowns or rumors that they’ve heard and they’re frozen with inaction,” Bigford said.

Those who are still unvaccinated are most likely set in their ways, Bigford said.

So why has Idaho risen from the bottom of the pack in terms of vaccinations? Potentially, because other states are simply doing worse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Idaho currently averages 1,191 administered per day. In Alabama, the state second to last in vaccination rates, the average is 2,336 doses a day for a population almost three times larger.

This despite the fact that COVID-19 appears to be reemerging in Idaho.

According to the CDC, Ada County is considered to be at a “high” community level for COVID-19. Over the past week the county sits at a case rate of over 225 positive cases per 100,000 residents, with an average of over 10 individuals per 100,000 residents being admitted to the hospital. The CDC recommends that people wear masks indoors, stay up to date with their vaccines and get tested if exhibiting symptoms. Those at high risk for severe illness should consider taking additional precautions, the CDC says.

Canyon County sits at a “medium” community level, according to the CDC website. Case rate per 100,000 Canyon County residents is over 87, with over 10 individuals per 100,000 residents being admitted to the hospital with the virus.

According to a report last week from the Idaho Capital Sun, Ada and Canyon counties were among the areas where coronavirus is spreading most aggressively. They were classified as “rapid riser counties” by the CDC last Thursday.

Last week, Idaho hospitals reported more than 100 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with more than 20 people newly admitted to the hospital on some days, the Capital Sun reported.

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Crystal Mendoza, RN, prepares a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for administration to a patient at Terry Reilly Health Services in Nampa on Jan. 7.

With that said, the report pointed out that the health care situation is far less tenuous than it was last fall, when the delta variant burned through Idaho’s under-vaccinated population and pushed hospitals beyond their limits.

These days, Bigford said around a quarter of his patients come in because they have COVID-19, with numbers comparable to last summer before the delta variant emerged.

Laura McGeorge, St. Luke’s Health System medical director, has seen both the peak and fall of interest in vaccine rollout.

“There are some people who will likely never get vaccinated,” McGeorge said. “Those that were considering it have already. The majority of those on the fence have gotten vaccinated.”

In January, St. Luke’s saw weeks with over 1,000 doses being administered, according to their COVID-19 statistics. Since February, the hospital has seen a decrease to less than 100 doses a week. The week of June 5 saw just 25 vaccines administered.

According to McGeorge, the gap between age demographics is a notable one, with nearly 88% of the elderly population being fully vaccinated.

“That has made a huge difference in survival for that population,” McGeorge said. “Younger patients are overall less likely to have been vaccinated.”

Still, McGeorge believes there are Idahoans who may come out and get vaccinated.

“I have seen patients who are hesitant, but with education, discussion and thoughtful conversation, they do go ahead and get the vaccine,” McGeorge said. “Some of them feel so much pressure from family and peer groups that they are afraid their family will find out they were vaccinated.”

McGeorge noted that, with the protection of privacy laws, receiving a vaccine is a health care matter private from family and friends.

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