Southeast Idaho lowers COVID vaccinations to age 65

FILE JBS Hyrum is offering five pounds of hamburger to anyone ho gets their first COVID-19 vaccine shot on Saturday.

POCATELLO – While Utah is still vaccinating people at age 70 and older, Southeastern Idaho Public Health has moved to scheduling appointments for people age 65 and older for COVID-19 vaccinations. As soon as they opened to that age group nearly 4,000 available appointments were filled almost immediately, either by people calling on the phone or scheduling online.

When slots open up in Southeast Idaho they fill up fast. They just lowered the age for vaccinations to 65.

Maggie Mann, Southeastern Idaho Public Health District Director, said the district is trying to open up more appointments through the spring.

“We expect to be done later this week,” she said. “As more information becomes available in the coming days, we will share it through our regional media partners, on our website at www.siphidaho.org, and our Facebook page.”

There are close to 27,000 people in the 65 and older age group in SIPH’s eight-county region (Bannock, Bear Lake,  Bingham, Butte, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida, & Power counties) all wanting these limited appointments.

The vaccine supply is extremely limited, there are just under 2,000 doses coming to the eight-county region each week. Those doses are then distributed to enrolled provider locations in the region to administer to individuals.

Because vaccine supplies are so limited, not all enrolled providers will receive vaccines each week, and all providers are having the same challenges with extremely limited vaccine supply. Mann said she anticipates it will take at least 13 weeks to get the vaccine to everyone in the 65 and older group at this rate. However, there is hope that the vaccine supply will increase in the coming weeks.

While we understand so many are very eager to receive the vaccine, we are asking for your patience,” said Mann. “We are extremely pleased that so many appointments were made so quickly today.”

“The online scheduling links went live at 8:00 a.m., as did our phone line,” Tracy McCulloch, spokeswoman for the agency, said. “At the same time, our experience today also helped identify some areas for improvement, which we are working to address.”

McCulloch said they understand frustration and confusion due to the inability to get through on the phone lines.

SIPH is committed to working with the community partners to get the COVID-19 vaccine out to people as quickly as we can, given extremely limited vaccine supply.

“We appreciate your patience as we work through this monumental undertaking as quickly as possible,” McCulloch said. “SIPH has a call center to field questions from the community and is open Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. You can reach the hotline at (208) 234-5875.”

For specific information about the novel coronavirus, please visit  https://siphidaho.org/coronavirus.php.

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