Mall vaccinations

Patients receive COVID-19 inoculations at Grand Teton Mall in Idaho Falls on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

While Idaho prepares to let all adults access COVID-19 vaccines, state health officials are also bracing for a time when vaccine supply will outpace demand.

State health director Dave Jeppesen said in a news conference Tuesday the change could come as soon as four weeks. Then the problem won’t be finding enough doses for the people who want them, but finding enough people for the doses on hand.

“We’ll soon be in a position where supply exceeds demand,” Jeppesen said.

All Idahoans age 16 and up will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by Monday. Some providers may expand access to this group sooner, which both Central District Health and Southeastern Idaho Public Health are doing.

Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in people aged 16- and 17-years old.

A departure from limited vaccine access has been approaching for months in the state, as officials broadened access week by week due to increased vaccine supply.

Supply continues to grow. The state is receiving more than 82,000 first doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week, Jeppesen said. He said that’s largely due to the greater availability of one-shot Johnson & Johnson doses.

Idaho public health administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said providers and local public health districts are working hard to find targeted ways to bring COVID-19 vaccines to hard-to-reach populations, such as people hesitant toward the shots, rural communities and Latino residents. Some providers have turned to clinics that are mobile, have drive-thrus or are at workplaces.

Deputy state virus researcher Kathryn Turner said health officials had identified 97 instances of people testing positive for the coronavirus at least two weeks after receiving their last shot against COVID-19, when people are considered fully vaccinated.

“No vaccines are 100% effective,” Turner said. She stressed that the cases, called “breakthrough” cases, don’t account for a large share of the more than quarter-million Idahoans who are fully vaccinated.

Three infections post-vaccination resulted in high-risk people being hospitalized, Turner said.

Turner said at least three fully vaccinated Idahoans who became infected had contracted a concerning coronavirus variant from California.

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t mean you’ll be entirely immune from contracting the virus. But the vaccines are believed to prevent the vast majority of severe COVID-19 infections and deaths from COVID-19. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released Monday said the two-dose mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna were 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 infections in the real world.

As of Tuesday, 926 shots, less than .1% of vaccine doses allocated to Idaho, have been reported as wasted, according to state immunization head Sarah Leeds. She said the true number may be higher but the reports of low wastage are good.

Currently, the groups eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho are: residents age 16 and up with medical conditions, frontline workers, long-term care facility residents and all residents age 45 and up.

Overall, about 35.5% of all Idahoans age 16 and up have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Roughly two in 10 Idahoans age 16 and up have gotten all shots in a series.

Vaccination rates are highest among seniors. Two-thirds of Idahoans age 65 and up have received at least one shot, while 52.9% are fully vaccinated.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.