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Small Clinics Play Big Role In Idaho's Rural Vaccine Distribution

J. Stephen Conn Flickr Creative Commons

More than 300 hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in Idaho are registered to give the COVID-19 vaccines to people, but in a few rural counties, there's only one place currently able to administer the shots. 

In Lincoln County, north of Twin Falls, the Shoshone Family Medical Center is leading the vaccine distribution.

The clinic has about 25 staff members and serves patients from Lincoln — with a population of roughly 5,000 — as well as other Magic Valley counties.


“We’re pretty small,” said Rachelle Livingston, a medical assistant who’s coordinating the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for the clinic. 


First, the medical staff started getting their shots, then they helped administer them to local emergency medical teams.


One frustration for this rural medical office was that they finished vaccinating locals who fit in the first priority group pretty quickly. 


“We went through the tiers faster than a big city,” Livingston said, “and I could’ve kept moving on.”


At the time, residents aged 65 and older weren’t eligible. So, they paused vaccinations for a week.


This week, things picked back up when the seniors could get shots. Livingston and her colleague made a list of patients over the age of 65, plus those who had called to get on a waitlist. 


“We just started calling people and got them on the schedule and that’s how we did it,” she said.


They ran two mass clinics this week in the community center, giving 50 shots on Monday and 91 on the next day. Most of them were first doses to seniors in the community, but some were second doses to people in the first priority group.


Two employees gave the shots, and volunteers from the South Central Public Health District and local emergency medical services organizations helped out with checking people in, organizing paperwork and monitoring patients’ reactions to the vaccine afterwards.


Securing enough staff and volunteers to work the community clinics is a challenge, Livingston said. And like everywhere in Idaho, so is the supply of the vaccine. The Shoshone clinic could administer 100 to 150 shots a day, she said. For now, they’re scheduling appointments based on how many doses they get.


Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen  

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