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Idaho Vaccine Committee Advises Moving Residents 65 And Older Up On Priority List

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Idaho’s COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee voted to move adults 65 and older up on the state’s priority list on Friday.

 

  

Health care workers and long-term care residents and staff are still in the process of getting their doses; some began receiving second doses this week.

 

Until now, Idaho had been sticking with the federal recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is advising the Centers for Disease Control on COVID-19 vaccine prioritization. For example, Idaho moved up long-term care residents to the highest priority group after ACIP made that recommendation. 

 

But, while ACIP recommended that frontline essential workers and adults older than 75 be in the second priority group, Idaho’s vaccine advisory committee decided to stray from that when it voted Friday to include adults older than 65 as well. 

 

About 80% of the vaccine committee members were in favor of moving 65- to 74-year-olds up. Now, this group could start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in February, along with those 75 and older. The state’s tentative timeline previously had this younger group receiving the vaccine in April.

 

Dr. David Peterman, the CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, said he was in favor of making the vaccine available to a broader category of older Idahoans earlier. He said only about 60% of health care workers at his medical group have been choosing to get the vaccine. That means people further down on the priority list could get the vaccine earlier than expected. 

 

“We’re talking about very large numbers,” Peterman said during the vaccine meeting Friday. His decision also centered around the health risks COVID-19 poses to the age group. “At 65, the hospital rate increases, the mortality rate increases,” he continued. “Our job is to keep people away and out of the hospital.”

 

The discussion follows some outcry among older Idaho residents this week who wanted to get the vaccine sooner than the state’s plan outlined.

 

An 87-year-old Twin Falls County man, Richard Byrd, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in regards to the state’s vaccine priority list. He said seniors living at home should not be behind those in long-term care facilities. “Denying me access to the COVID-19 vaccine is in reality a ‘threat’ to my life,” the complaint stated.

 

Then on Tuesday, during the governor’s latest AARP tele-townhall, some callers also expressed frustration with the priority groups.

 

“Idaho’s plan to prioritize folks like convenience store workers and construction workers ahead of older Idahoans is just plain wrong,” said a caller named John from Coeur d’Alene.

 

Now, following the priority change recommended by the vaccine advisory committee, people 65 and older will be in the same category as frontline essential workers. The committee was set to present the changes to Gov. Little on Friday who has the final sign-off on the distribution plan.

 
Follow Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen for more local news.
 
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