‘It’s really hopeful’: Panhandle Health launching COVID-19 vaccination clinics

HAYDEN, Idaho — Vaccines are heading into the arms of healthcare workers in North Idaho. Starting on Wednesday, three clinics will open for people like nurses, dentists and physical therapists.

Idaho has received 83,475 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state Department of Health. 67,875 were for the first doses given in December. Panhandle Health got a little more than 11,000 doses, and has administered 56% of those. One person waiting is Dr. Marty Hann.

“I figured by going ahead soon and being a good example and maybe I’ll inspire others to maybe get the vaccine,” the Hayden dentist said.

Dr. Hann works at Cornerstone Dental Care. He says only two of his employees want to get the vaccine right now and says others are worried about side effects.

“Once I’m vaccinated, I can tell my patients I’m vaccinated and I think for some of them it’ll delay some of their fears,” he said.

The doctor will sign up for one of the clinics offered by PHD. They’ll be set up at the district offices in Hayden, Kellogg and Sandpoint. PHD has set aside 4,400 doses for the clinics.

It’s only open to people under the state’s phase 1A recommendation. This includes healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, first responders and emergency management workers who can’t work at home.

Idaho Vaccine Rollout Timeline

“School nurses are also welcomed to come receive their vaccine,” said Katherine Hoyer, the district’s Public Information Officer. “So it’s fairly broad but kinda more prone to medical field and first responders.”

Hoyer said they’re also welcoming coroners, behavioral health specialists, physical therapists — anyone who is in contact with a patient.

“You have to be within those particular fields and we feel like we will have enough vaccines to cover our clinics and we’ll receive more vaccine next week,” Hoyer said.

Panhandle Health has been receiving both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines on a weekly basis.

“We have consistently been getting at minimum 975 of Pfizer and minimum about 1,200 of Moderna and we’re hoping that continues,” Hoyer explained.

She said Kootenai Health recently got 975 Pfizer vaccines.  The state expects to get 20,000 doses each week moving forward.

To help with the clinics, 30 National Guard members and the Medical Reserve Corp will help with logistics. Only medical staff will administer the vaccine, and an appointment must be made prior.

In regards to long-term care facilities, Hoyer said all but six facilities in North Idaho are set up with Walgreens or CVS through a federal program. The six facilities to opt out were set up with a pharmacy in its area. State-wide, 33,150 doses were given to the federal program, strictly for the facilities. Those vaccinations started on Dec. 28, 2020.

In the next phase, people like teachers, grocery store workers and people over 75 can get the vaccine. This isn’t expected until February, and the plan is tentative.

“We’ll want to go to a larger scale where we can put more people through a vaccination clinic and allow the great public to be vaccinated,” Hoyer said.

This won’t be happening yet. PHD is looking into different venues for potential vaccination sites such as the fairgrounds or churches.

“We still have a long way to go but like I said, I hope everyone keeps that hope and is excited to get the vaccine,” Hoyer said.

The vaccine isn’t expected to be available to the general public until May.

To help keep track of the vaccinations given out in the state, which currently stands 20,843, the state health department will launch a COVID-19 vaccine dashboard this week. It’ll eventually show geographical data, first and second dose administrations and more.

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