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Why One Idaho Public Health District Offered COVID-19 Vaccine To Its Board Members

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St. Luke's Health System

The South Central Public Health District in Twin Falls offered COVID-19 vaccines to its board members. It's the only health district in the state to take this step.

 

  

Brianna Bodily, the district’s public information officer, said it made the vaccine available to board members — county commissioners or county-appointed representatives — because the district considers them public health workers. 

The state’s vaccine plan says public health employees are in priority Group 1, if they can’t telework. 

None of the other six public health districts in the state have offered the vaccine to board members. Those districts told Boise State Public Radio the officials will be eligible when their age group or occupation is prioritized by the state.

 

Eastern Idaho Public Health said only district staff who have direct interactions with patients in clinical settings, like public health nurses and customer service representatives, are receiving the vaccine at this time.

 

Bodily said South Central Public Health District board members have regular meetings with district employees. Some feel they need to attend in person.

 

At the end of the last board meeting, Board Chair Linda Montgomery from Jerome said the board may be able to meet in person for its February meeting because many of the members will be immunized by then.

 

Bodily said board members who were offered the vaccine likely had received their first shot as of last week, but she couldn’t comment on the specifics due to HIPAA privacy laws. Not every board member was vaccinated, she said, because some felt they could attend the meetings from home. At least two members are medical professionals.

 

Throughout the pandemic, the South Central Public Health District board repeatedlyvoted against face mask mandates — something local health leaders supported to slow the spread of the virus.

 

The public health district takes the priority groups seriously, Bodily said. As an employee able to telework, she hadn't received the first dose of the vaccine as of last week.

 

Though the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has extensive guidelines outlining who’s eligible for the vaccine, department employees acknowledge people are going to interpret them differently.

 

One member of the state’s vaccine committee pointed out that school board trustees in one health district were able to sign up for a vaccine appointment but in another district, school board trustees were not eligible.

 

“We can’t police every single one of these individuals getting vaccinated,” replied Elke Shaw-Tulloch during the committee meeting last Friday.

 

Still, with limited vaccine doses coming to the state, committee members have been reluctant to add more people to the state’s highest priority groups. 

 
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
 
Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

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