Idaho’s top health leaders say they’ve been pressing the federal government for the state to get its “fair share” of COVID-19 vaccine doses. And some say it’s beginning to pay off.
The state’s weekly vaccine allotment has risen gradually since mid-January, when about 21,000 doses were coming, to 25,500 first doses during each of the past two weeks, said state health Director Dave Jeppesen.
“The Biden Administration has signaled that may increase going forward,” Jeppesen told reporters Tuesday. He said he doesn’t know the exact amount.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Jeppesen have complained that Idaho was not getting as many doses, compared to its population, as other states. The big reason, they say, is that the federal government is doling out doses based on the number of adults in each state. Idaho has one of the nation’s highest proportion of children. Vaccines aren’t yet approved for them.
Idaho’s leaders have also suggested that Census estimates for Idaho, which is rapidly growing in population, may not reflect reality. Jeppesen reiterated that claim Tuesday.
Idaho has made multiple moves lately in hopes of boosting transparency, including by publishing a detailed public data system that allows people to see how many vaccine doses providers near them have given out and where shots are sitting in freezers.
The data stems from an executive order Little issued Jan. 28. Providers have 72 hours to tell the state when they give out shots, which may delay some reporting.
About 71%, or 189,000 of the 266,000 total COVID-19 vaccine doses that the state has received by Monday have been administered, Jeppesen said. Ninety-one percent of doses dedicated as first shots in Idaho have been given. “There’s less than one week’s inventory in the state right now,” Jeppesen said. “The providers are doing a great job of getting those first doses out within seven days, which is our goal.”
Jeppesen said 13,600 doses were being pulled from Walgreens, which was tasked with vaccinating some long-term care facility residents through a federal partnership. Combined with the 12,600 the state pulled from CVS last week, Idaho officials have reallocated 26,200 doses from an initiative that began late December and has been slower than hoped for.
Still, Jeppesen said, about a fifth of all seniors in the state — or 62,500 Idahoans age 65 and up — have received at least their first COVID-19 vaccine shot.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many of those were seniors living in facilities; state officials estimate 265,000 of the 291,000 Idaho seniors live independently. That large group only became eligible Feb. 1.
The state is now getting about 20,000 booster shots each week.
Jeppesen said the rate of people who receive their first virus shot and weeks later get their booster shot at the correct time is in the high 90% range.
State immunization head Sarah Leeds said the state’s vaccine tracking system will soon be updated to collect data on race and ethnicity. That data should become public this weekend, she said. Previously, state officials erroneously claimed they were legally prohibited from collecting such information. Jeppesen walked back that claim last week, after the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Reports published articles saying they could not identify any state law prohibiting Idaho from collecting such data.