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Health

Idaho begins initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout for young children

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St. Luke's Health System

COVID-19 vaccines are now available in Idaho for children between the ages of six months and five years old, though their availability seems to be mostly concentrated in the Treasure Valley.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended the use of these vaccines.

Primary Health clinics in Idaho’s largest metro area are accepting walk-in patients seeking vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna.

A vaccine finder run by the CDC shows little availability outside of the Treasure Valley as the rollout begins, though.

In eastern Idaho, a Walgreens pharmacy in Rexburg has Moderna doses available, while a clinic in Driggs has both varieties. The database listed no doses available in Idaho Falls and Pocatello, the two major population centers in that part of the state.

Parents in the northern panhandle of Idaho would have to travel to Spokane to get their children vaccinated, as of Wednesday afternoon.

St. Luke’s Health System, the state’s largest medical provider, said Wednesday it would make appointments available for children over the next couple of weeks.

“I would be very, very surprised if there are any supply issues,” said Dr. Laura McGeorge, the medical director for St. Luke’s primary care operations.

But McGeorge didn’t say how many doses she expects the medical system to receive. She did say they would be available at all of St. Luke’s pediatric clinics and most family medicine clinics.

Outside of the Treasure Valley, the health system includes locations in Hailey, McCall, Riggins, Sun Valley, Twin Falls, and many others.

Not all locations will necessarily be able to stock both versions of the vaccine, McGeorge said, but St. Luke’s will try to make them available as widely as possible.

Pfizer’s vaccine involves three injections over the course of about 10 weeks, while Moderna only requires two shots about one month apart.

The surge of the omicron variant in January strained St. Luke’s pediatric wing with 55 patients admitted that month, according to Dr. Kenny Bramwell, the medical director for the system’s children’s hospital.

Before that, Bramwell said the hospital averaged about five pediatric patients with COVID-19 per month.

While children are less susceptible to the disease, about 200 kids nationwide who previously couldn’t be vaccinated have died from COVID-19 through the end of May 2022, according to McGeorge.

But she said getting Idaho’s youngest children vaccinated will largely have more of an effect on everyday life.

“No need to cancel that upcoming vacation with grandma, parents don’t need to miss work because the kid is home sick with COVID.”

The New York Times reported last week that both shots made by Pfizer and Moderna were shown to be less effective than their respective versions for adults, though the FDA said that could be due to new variants that are more resistant to vaccines.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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