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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. If you have specific questions about the virus in Idaho and the state's response to it, please submit them to us and we'll do our best to report the information you need.

Idaho’s First 13,600 Vaccine Doses Will Go To Health Care Workers

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Idaho is expected to receive 13,650 doses of a Pfizer vaccine in the first allocation, which could arrive as early as mid-December.

It’s 26% of the roughly 52,000 doses the state had been expecting to receive in the first shipment.

That means the first batch of the vaccine won’t cover everyone in the highest priority group. Idaho’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee is recommending that health care workers and long-term care residents should be in that top “Phase 1a” category, and Gov. Brad Little will make the final decision.

Hospital workers and clinic staff who are “essential for care of COVID-19 patients and maintaining hospital capacity” will likely be some of the first in line for those earliest doses. Even still, they’re unlikely to cover all of that group. The state estimates there are 44,634 hospital staff and employees in physicians’ offices in Idaho.

But, if both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are authorized according to the likely timeline, Idaho could receive nearly 90,000 doses total in the first three weeks of vaccine distribution.

“The good news is we anticipate a pretty significant ramping up of doses by the end of the year and the beginning of 2021,” said Sarah Leeds, the program manager for the Idaho Immunization Program, during the vaccine advisory committee meeting on Friday.

Idaho’s long-term care residents are also proposed to be in the highest priority group to receive a vaccine. But to activate the federally-administered partnership with pharmacies that will get the vaccines to those facilities, the state needs to have a certain number of doses on-hand.

It anticipates crossing that threshold in the second week of vaccine distribution, so some doses sent after the initial shipment will likely be allocated for long-term care facility residents.

Idaho residents in these facilities weren’t initially in the top priority group, but they were moved up based on a recommendation from an advisory group to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week.

About 45% of Idaho’s more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths are associated with long-term care facilities.

Nate Thompson, a physician assistant at St. Luke’s Health System, said in addition to protecting these residents from the virus, vaccinating them could help ease hospital capacity.

“They are disproportionately likely to have a long course of hospitalization, taking up many hospital days,” he said.

It’s also difficult to discharge long-term care residents from hospitals when they’re still sick, he said, because their facilities want to limit chances for outbreaks.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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