Idaho hits a COVID vaccine milestone: More than 50% of adults got their shots

The state’s vaccine rollout has slowed to a rate of about 1,000 people a day.

By: - June 22, 2021 12:49 pm
health care provider provides COVID vaccination

A health care provider administers the COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at St. Luke’s. (Courtesy of St. Luke’s Health System)

Idaho has reached a milestone in protecting its residents and economy from the coronavirus. More than half of Idaho’s adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported that 50.2% of Idaho adults had chosen to be vaccinated.

“We likely will not meet the national goal of at least 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator of Idaho’s Division of Public Health, during a media briefing Tuesday. “We do continue to make gains in our vaccination rates, which is an important piece to stay ahead of the spread of the (variants). We know that many people continue to be concerned about vaccine safety and are taking a wait-and-see approach. We also know that we need to make vaccines extremely convenient to accommodate people’s busy lives, and because of all this, we are employing a wide array of tactics to increase confidence in vaccine, increased access to the vaccine, as well as motivate people to get the vaccine.”

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a higher rate of vaccination among Idaho adults, with 52.1% having received at least one dose. The CDC data include vaccines administered through federal providers, such as the Department of Defense or the Boise VA Medical Center.

Public health officials and health care providers have continued to arrange for mobile vaccine clinics and have continued to urge the public to get protected from the coronavirus.

Still, vaccination rates have slowed to a snail’s pace in the past couple of months. The most recent state data show about 1,000 people a day getting a first dose of vaccine. That’s down from about 6,000 to 11,000 a day in March and early April.

That has left public health departments and health care providers with more than 350,000 doses. That’s enough of a vaccine surplus to last through the end of September, at current rates.

Idaho has the 5th lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the U.S., according to CDC data. The CDC says that, as of Monday, 46.7% of Idahoans who can be vaccinated (age 12 and older) have been. The national average is 62.5%.

Shaw-Tulloch said state and local public health departments, community groups, employers and health care providers have worked together to try to increase Idaho’s vaccination rate. They have:

  • trained pediatricians and other health care providers, to increase their knowledge and ability to talk with patients about the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • provided a “toolkit” for leaders of faith-based organizations so they can discuss the vaccine with their congregations.
  • offered grants to help health care providers take part in vaccine administration.
  • offered mini grants to support mobile, special and off-site vaccination clinics.

Shaw-Tulloch said one grant recipient is working on a vaccination effort called “Rock the Shot,” in which it will bring vaccines to events such as Treefort Music Fest and Alive After Five and to popular places like wineries, Kleiner Park in Meridian and the Idaho Botanical Garden.

“The Rock the Shots program will appeal, hopefully, to a broad audience in a fun and relaxed environment, provide vaccines, as well as answer any questions about vaccines in a non-judgmental and hassle free way,” she said.

Idaho Administrator of Public Health Elke Shaw-Tulloch
Idaho Administrator of Public Health Elke Shaw-Tulloch

She said vaccine providers are going to homebound people’s residences, to workplaces and job sites, to manufacturing and dairy businesses, to rodeos and fairs.

Some businesses are covering shifts for their employees to get vaccinated. Some are offering insurance discounts. The state of Idaho and some private businesses are offering paid time off work for vaccines.

Some businesses are offering people who get vaccinated free drinks, free groceries, discounts, cash, paid time off, gift certificates, raffle tickets, “free beer, candies, coffees, pool passes, night at a resort,” she said.

While it is slow moving, Shaw-Tulloch said the state will continue to work on ways to reach Idahoans.

“One shot is a success to me, because that’s one more person that wasn’t vaccinated the day before,” she said. “We’re not giving up, I think is the biggest message here. We will continue to work with our partners to make sure that we make those vaccines available. So again, to me, success is that … we’re just making those small gains over time.”

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Dutton hails from Twin Falls. She attended college at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.