IDAHO FALLS — Vaccines for COVID-19 continue to be distributed in eastern Idaho. Healthcare workers, EMS, long-term care residents and staff, home care providers, first responders, educators and correctional workers are now eligible for the vaccine.
It is being rolled out in stages and beginning in February, people age 65 and older should be eligible to receive the shot. Eastern Idaho Public Health has posted the priority levels here showing when the vaccine will be available for different groups.
EastIdahoNews.com has received numerous questions about the COVID-19 vaccination, distribution, processes and procedures. We took those questions to Amy Gamett, the Clinical Services Administrator for EIPH.
1. Who and how is the public going to know when it’s time for them to get a vaccine?
The state of Idaho has a committee that provides recommendations to the governor that includes priority groups for the vaccine. All the vaccine providers in the state of Idaho have agreed to follow that priority group list. It is set statewide and goes in different phases. The information can be found on the EIPH website here.
If you want an indicator of when your group is eligible, you can sign up to get a notification here.
2. Are members of the public supposed to go to a certain place for the shot and do they need a reservation?
I would say yes. In the early rollout, we have limited vaccine statewide. In our eight-county health district, we’re averaging around 2,000 doses a week which is not very much. Right now you are required to have an appointment just so we know we’ll have enough doses for the people coming in.
Some other states are doing first-come, first-serve and there might be thousands in line for 600 doses and we’re trying to avoid that. We’re trying to put something in place when we move to bigger populations so they’ll be able to go to a web link or call their provider and get a reservation.
3. If I get the shot at one specific location, do I need to go back to the same facility to get the second shot?
We get asked that all the time and the short answer is yes. When I receive my first shipment of the vaccine, my second shipment for those second doses is already reserved. I don’t even have to ask for that – they’re just going to send me those doses 3-4 weeks later.
When you got your first shot at facility A, that reserved second dose is coming. At the health department, we’re making your second appointment when you receive your first vaccine.
4. Does a person get to choose whether they get the Pfizer or Moderna shot?
At this time, no. We don’t even know what we’re getting. Last week I was getting Moderna and today we’re getting Pfizer. It varies depending on what the state allocates to our health district.
If you truly were partial to one over the other, you could wait to see what’s coming in the next week. We don’t encourage that. When you have the opportunity to receive a vaccine, we want people to take it regardless of which vaccine it is.
5. If you have recovered from COVID-19, do you need a shot?
Yes. As with many diseases, we don’t know how long the immunity lasts from having COVID-19. Right now the CDC is saying at a minimum it’s 90 days and they’re looking at studies that could extend that out further. Not knowing that, the recommendation is to receive a vaccine regardless of whether you’ve had COVID or not.
6. We’ve heard about some receiving the vaccine who have adverse reactions. How common is this and do we need to be concerned?
With any medication, there are always reports of adverse events. There are some reactions but they are still very rare. At least 14 million doses have been administrated in the US through this last week and adverse reactions are very rare. What we’re seeing is more common reactions that you see with other vaccines – sore arms, maybe some muscle aches for 24 hours, etc. But there are some risks, as with any medication, and every healthcare facility is prepared for those reactions as well.
7. Once I get the vaccine, will I ever need to get it again?
That’s the million-dollar question. The experts are still looking at the studies as to how long the vaccine creates immunity.
8. The other million-dollar question is once the vaccine is widely available for anyone who wants to get it, will life return to “normal”?
It’s a complicated question. One thing to look at is the uptake of vaccines – how many people have to be vaccinated to have an impact on circulating disease. We know the vaccine works well for hospitalizations and severe disease. The only thing they haven’t studied enough is asymptomatic disease. They have to make sure the vaccine is also preventing that.
9. You mentioned you’re distributing about 2,000 vaccines a week and that’s on the low end. Is that because you don’t have enough doses or people aren’t coming in to get them?
It’s because we have a limited amount of vaccine. We have multiple partners that want to help vaccinate and we have multiple people ready to roll up their shirt sleeves – it’s just that we don’t have enough vaccines. We will continue to roll that out as quickly as we can and hope those dose allotments go up each day.
10. When people can finally get their vaccine, do they need to pay or does insurance cover it?
Some facilities are billing insurance but if you don’t have insurance, the vaccine is free. There shouldn’t be any charge.
More information about the vaccine can be found here on the Eastern Idaho Public Health website.
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