Two weeks after children as young as 12 years old became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, few in Idaho have received shots.
Officials say an initial rush of eager parents and children has led 9% of kids age 12 to 15 to receive at least one dose. But as summer break approaches for most Idaho schools, where many mask requirements have been rescinded, state officials want to see that number rise.
“We’re concerned that people will lose their interest in this, and we have a lot of work to do before school starts,” Dr. Christine Hahn, Idaho’s top public health researcher, said Tuesday during a news conference.
About 22% of Idaho teens age 16 and 17 have received at least one shot. People under 18 years old can only receive the Pfizer vaccine, which requires two doses for maximum protection.
Also during the news conference, Hahn announced that the state reported three cases of heart inflammation to federal health officials to investigate possible links to the vaccine. More than 660,000 Idahoans have received COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week is looking into the scarce reports across the country, according to the New York Times.
Reuters reported that the reports are most common in younger adults and adolescents. The condition, called myocarditis, “often goes away without complications and can be caused by a variety of viruses,” Reuters reported.
“It may simply be a coincidence that some people are developing myocarditis after vaccination,” Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, said, according to the Times. “It’s more likely for something like that to happen by chance, because so many people are getting vaccinated right now.”
Idaho trails most states in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Almost 48% of Idaho adults have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to almost 62% of all American adults
Amid a push to boost vaccination numbers, Idaho officials are considering all options that incentivize vaccination, Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said. That includes a potential lottery for vaccinated residents, a system that would award lump sums of money. A handful of states have used the so-called lotteries.
“Nothing is off the table,” Shaw-Tulloch said in response to a question about vaccine lotteries.
While Idaho has one of the nation’s highest rate of vaccine-hesitant residents, access to shots remains a barrier for some. For some people, finding time is a significant hurdle. For others, sites are far away or their ability to travel is limited by not having a car or being medically homebound.
More than $6 million in state grant funding is available for organizations and vaccination clinics to make shots easier to find, including through clinics that are mobile or accept walk-ins.
Vaccine demand has steadily dropped across the U.S. in the past month. Stockpiles have grown so much that Idaho has enough vaccines to last more than nine weeks — with more than 360,000 doses on hand.
Fewer doses appear to be coming to vaccination sites in the state during the glut. This week, for instance, state providers only accepted 8,000 shots, according to figures from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.