Idaho health officials try new ways to get people vaccinated

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Jonathan Hayward

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Health officials in Idaho are trying new methods to encourage people to get vaccinated as interest in COVID-19 shots starts to wane.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is giving up to $9 million in grant funding to encourage private health providers to host vaccination clinics, the Times-News in Twin Falls reported Monday.

The effort came after the state lifted restrictions and is allowing anyone to receive vaccines, even if they are not residents. The South Central Public Health District also has started to schedule walk-in public clinics throughout the Magic Valley.

Officials at St. Luke’s Health System announced last week that people no longer have to make appointments to receive a dose at one of its vaccination sites. The health system also is launching a mobile vaccine unit that will stop in multiple cities throughout May and June, including Boise and Twin Falls.

“The punch line is we’re trying to make it easier for people to come in and get their vaccine,” said Dr. Joshua Kern, area chief medical officer for St. Luke’s.

Idaho has administered more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. About 34% of the population 16 and older is completely vaccinated, according to the state’s vaccine data dashboard.

However, the number of doses being administered has dropped, falling from 95,000 the week of April 4 to about 63,000 two weeks later. As a result, the state’s allotment of vaccine from the federal government has been reduced.

“It appears that we are rapidly approaching the point where vaccine supply will exceed demand,” health department Director David Jeppesen said at an April 20 news briefing.

Idaho is estimated to have higher rates of vaccine hesitancy than many other parts of the country, according to data released last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The agency estimates about 25% of Idaho residents are vaccine-hesitant — the fourth-highest rate in the U.S., behind only Mississippi, North Dakota and Wyoming.