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Idaho Clears Major Coronavirus Vaccine Benchmark

Gloved hand reaches for a syringe
St. Luke's Health System
St. Luke's Health System

Idaho health officials celebrated a milestone this week: more than half of the state’s adults have gotten at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Elke Shaw-Tulloch, Idaho’s public health administrator, applauded the news at a media briefing Tuesday. But she was up front about the state lagging behind the rest of the country.

“While we likely will not meet the national goal of at least 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4, we do continue to make gains in our vaccination rates,” Shaw-Tulloch said.

More than half of adults in the U.S. had gotten at least one shot by mid-April.

As of Monday, 47% of those ages 12 and older eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in Idaho had gotten at least one dose, compared to 62.5% nationally.

The number of doses administered also fell from 25,000 to 19,000 last week, according to state data.

Shaw-Tulloch said the state is offering grants for vaccine clinics at community events, like Treefort Music Fest or rodeos and fairs, to boost rates.

It wasn’t immediately clear how successful these drives have been, with some scheduled events not taking place for several weeks or months.

“One shot is a success to me because it’s one more person who wasn’t vaccinated the day before,” Shaw-Tulloch said.

Idaho’s rate of new cases continued to drop. The latest state data show the number of positive test results dropped from 3.8% to 3.6%. Shaw-Tulloch said hospitalizations also appear to be on the decline.

State officials said Idaho will begin putting more effort into tracking coronavirus variants circulating in the state.

Starting this week, state epidemiologist, Dr. Christine Hahn, said Idaho will ask labs to send in all positive coronavirus test samples.

“We’ll figure out a way to get as many of those tested as possible so we have a better representative sample of what variants are in the state,” Hahn said.

In the past, she said the state had only asked to more closely examine positive tests involving people who had recently traveled, or that included an unusual result.

So far, the state has only detected one case of the more transmissible and potentially more harmful Delta variant of the coronavirus. Federal health officials said Tuesday the variant now accounts for more than 20% of all U.S. cases.

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!