Idaho’s teachers and other K-12 staff members are next up to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, with access to the shots planned for February, state officials said Tuesday.
Although a small number of Idaho teachers have already received the vaccine, the state is still making its way through the initial allotment of vaccines prioritized for health care workers and longterm care center residents.
By February, the state expects to move on to the next tier of vaccine recipients, wave 1B. This group includes K-12 teachers, school staff members, bus drivers, adults 75 and older, and essential workers such as food processing and grocery store employees. (The state has posted a chart illustrating when Idahoans can expect access to a vaccine, based on several categories).
“Teachers and school staff are not in this initial phase but we do know that some providers have given those vaccines out there,” Health and Welfare Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said Tuesday. “They are in the next phase and we see them coming up very quickly as we transition very quickly.”
As of Tuesday morning, the state has administered 20,843 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is truly a modern miracle of science that a vaccine was developed so quickly — and one that is so safe and effective,” Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said.
The vaccine requires two doses. When someone receives an initial dose, a second dose is automatically held back for them to receive about three weeks later.
Gov. Brad Little and Jeppesen said the state’s strategy is to slow the spread of the virus, and focus on protecting the most vulnerable Idahoans first.
“Believe me, we want to get the vaccine in people’s arms and get through this pandemic as soon as possible,” Little said during a telephone town hall meeting Tuesday.
There is no cost to receive the vaccine. Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or the government will cover costs.
Vaccinations are optional. No law or state or federal requirement applies to the shot.
Idaho is receiving about 20,000 doses of the vaccine a week and health officials hope the supply ramps up and the feds approve additional vaccines.
When new vaccine shipments arrive in Idaho (often on Mondays, Jeppesen said) they are distributed to health care providers partnered with local public health districts.
For instance, Central District Health received an initial shipment of 8,875 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine the week of Dec. 14. CDH officials divided those doses between St. Luke’s Health System, Saint Alphonsus Health System and Primary Health Medical Group, according to CDH.
People can expect to get the vaccine in many places that offer a regular flu shot or other vaccine — such as a doctor’s office or medical clinic, a pharmacy or hospital.
Health and Welfare officials said they are working with public health districts and health care providers to spread the word when it’s time for the next phase of vaccinations.
“Our hope is to be able to give a week’s heads up, if you will, that a next phase is going to be approaching,” Shaw-Tulloch said.
Even with light at the end of the tunnel, health officials urged patience and noted there is a lag between when vaccines arrive and when they are administered.
“It’s not going to be perfect, it’s not going to be completely uniform but we are trying our best to help providers stay as consistent as possible,” Shaw-Tulloch said.
The vaccines that are being administered now are for adults. There is not yet a vaccine for children, State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn said.