State health officials hopeful for new vaccine authorization

Idaho health officials are hopeful the feds will approve an additional COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days, which they say could greatly expand the supply of doses for residents.

Federal advisory committees and agencies are meeting later this week and early next week to consider an emergency use authorization for a potential new vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.

Dr. Christine Hahn. File photo by Sami Edge/Idaho EdNews

“We might see the vaccine as soon as next week if all of this goes as planned,” state epidemiologist Christine Hahn said Tuesday.

Right now, vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have been authorized and are available in Idaho. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be a third. Unlike the others, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would come in a single dose — not two doses.

During a Tuesday afternoon press conference, state health officials said they are pleased with Idaho’s vaccine rollout — even as they acknowledged thousands of doses bound for Idaho were subject to shipping delays last week due to severe winter weather across the country.

Idaho is now prioritizing vaccines for seniors 65 and older. As of Monday, 39 percent of Idaho’s 290,000 adults 65 and older have received a first dose of vaccine.

“As you can see we have made great progress,” Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said.

As part of the plan to reopen schools, Gov. Brad Little and state health officials prioritized vaccinating teachers and school staff serving pre-K through 12th grade. In January, the state approved teachers and staff to receive the vaccine.

Now, with vaccine circulating and case numbers declining, many school districts are making plans to return to in-person learning this school year.

As of Monday, 216,861 Idaho residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That compares to 169,584 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 the state has tracked since March 13.

A couple of weeks ago, Idaho was receiving 20,000 to 25,000 new doses of COVID vaccine per week. Now, with a federal retail pharmacy partnership ramping up, Idaho is receiving about 41,000 new doses per week, Health and Welfare Administrator of Public Health Elke Shaw-Tulloch said.

Even with more vaccine, demand still outpaces supply, health officials said.

College students and employees, some essential workers, the general adult public and children are still waiting to be cleared to receive vaccines.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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