In a sign that Idaho has more COVID-19 vaccines than residents who want them, state public health officials will no longer recommend that providers ask people to prove they live or work in-state to be inoculated.
The change is effective immediately, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters in virtual news conference Tuesday.
The residency requirement “was put in place at a time when demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in Idaho far exceeded supply. However, our situation has changed,” Jeppesen said.
To ensure vaccines are getting into arms, the state is attempting to boost vaccine access by expanding public resources. Those efforts include:
— Expanding the state’s vaccine waitlist website, covidvaccine.idaho.gov, to help people find sites that accept walk-ins nearby or connect with vaccine sites directly to schedule appointments. That’s in addition to the state’s waitlist that providers pull names from to schedule appointments.
— Letting vaccine providers access a pool of grant funds totaling $9 million to expand access to hard-to-reach groups. That could help vaccination sites hold walk-in or mobile clinics, get vaccines directly to people, hold pop-up clinics or support advertising, said state public health administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch.
For the second week in a row, the number of total vaccines administered in the state declined. Jeppesen said Idaho vaccine providers have enough supply to last four weeks.
The announcement came one day after Idaho public health officials celebrated the milestone of 1 million vaccine doses being administered in the state. By Tuesday afternoon, state data showed more than 465,000 people had been fully vaccinated in Idaho. About 42% of all eligible Idahoans have received at least one shot.
Since early April, everyone age 16 and up has been eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Idaho.
Just before vaccine demand dropped off in Idaho, federal officials temporarily halted use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which resumed last week after regulators determined the vaccine’s benefits outweigh a very low risk of blood clots.
Idaho’s top public health researcher Dr. Christine Hahn said vaccine providers should be transparent about which vaccines they are offering and that multiple vaccine types should be available in communities.
“We want to make sure that people are given true choice,” Hahn said.
Dr. Kathryn Turner, deputy public health researcher, said one fully vaccinated Idahoan has died from COVID-19. So far, she said 190 Idahoans fully vaccinated had contracted the virus, about .05% of total fully vaccinated Idahoans. Just four vaccine breakthrough cases in Idaho have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, while most have either no or mild symptoms.
Vaccine breakthrough cases are rare but expected, she said, because the vaccines aren’t 100% effective against stopping coronavirus infections. Real-world data suggest the mRNA vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna are more than 90% effective at preventing infections.