Idaho’s track record does not bode well for COVID-19 vaccination rollout for kids

It’s a problem Dr. Kenny Bramwell would love to see: A shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, as parents flock to pharmacies and clinics to get their children the jab.

But Bramwell, medical director for the St. Luke’s Health System children’s hospital, is realistic, based on Idaho’s vaccination track record.

“That hasn’t happened with other age groups yet,” Bramwell said in an Idaho Education News podcast interview.

Within weeks, 5- to 11-year-olds could be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. If the feds approve Pfizer’s request, some children could be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CBS News this week.

But Idaho’s child COVID-19 vaccination rates have languished for months:

  • Only 30 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated — the lowest rate of any age group.
  • For 16- and 17-year-olds, the rate isn’t much better, at 36 percent.

Both of these rates lag well below Idaho’s overall vaccination rate of 53.4 percent. Significantly, the numbers for teenagers fall well below vaccination rates for Idahoans in their 30s and 40s: in other words, their parents.

“It’s illogical,” Bramwell said Tuesday. “I wish I could understand that better.”

Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program, is aware of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination pattern: a surge in traffic as the jab becomes available, but waning interest within a few months. But she isn’t exactly sure what to expect when children become eligible.

“I have not seen any survey data of parents in Idaho, and their intentions about vaccinating,” Leeds said Tuesday, during the Department of Health and Welfare’s weekly COVID-19 media briefing.

Messaging will be “incredibly important,” since most parents base their health decisions on what they hear from their family doctor, or family and friends, said Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer for the Saint Alphonsus Health System.

Nemerson acknowledges that there is a lot of cynicism about the pandemic, directed toward the medical community. But he also says the facts are on the side of the vaccine — which can protect children from the unlikely complications of a COVID-19 case, and protect family members from the spread of the virus. As the feds review Pfizer’s application, Saint Al’s is working on a vaccination communication campaign.

I don’t want to call it a marketing campaign, because we’re not selling soap here,” Nemerson told reporters. “We’re selling well-being. And we want to sell the truth and people have to be able to trust us.”

Coming Friday: Check our Soundcloud page for this week’s Kevin Richert Podcast, an interview with Dr. Kenny Bramwell of the St. Luke’s Health System.



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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