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Why Some Idaho Health Districts Have Used A Low Percentage Of Their Vaccine Doses

A needle with measurements on the side going into an unmarked vaccine vial.
Adobe Stock

According to state data released this week, some health districts have given out a small percentage of COVID-19 vaccine doses they’ve received. 


A few health systems get vaccine shipments directly, but many smaller providers receive their doses from one of Idaho’s seven public health districts. Doses are also kept for the districts to run their own clinics.


Southwest District Health based in Caldwell had more than 2,500 doses on hand as of Wednesday and it had only administered 30% of its share. 


“The governor’s dashboard has been really helpful,” said Sam Kenney, a project manager at Southwest District Health. “But you can’t just look at a single provider, or a single health district even, to understand whether or not we have a healthy ratio of unused and administered doses.”


One reason for that, she said, is health districts store a lot of doses for partners that don’t have freezers. 


In the North Central District, where only 26% of the health district’s doses have been used, the health district is the only ultra-cold storage facility in the five-county area. 


“Providers arrange for pick-up of the amount of vaccine they can use in five days, as that is how long it is viable outside of ultra-cold storage,” Scott Schlegel, the public information officer for the Lewiston-based health district, wrote in an email.  


That means every provider planning a clinic in the region — for the public or existing patients — needs to store the vaccine at the health district at some point. 


This week Southwest District Health administered 300 doses for Canyon County emergency personnel. The district held onto the doses until the county staff were ready for the clinic and then delivered those doses. 


Health districts also keep the second doses of the vaccine until providers need them, as they need to be administered at a specific time — three or four weeks after the first dose, depending on the vaccine type. 


Kenney said Southwest District Health has been receiving second doses about two weeks early. Second doses contributed to about three-quarters of the vaccine doses the health district was storing this week. On some level, Kenney said, it’s a good thing that providers have second doses available. 


“There should always be some booster doses on hand,” she said.


And while health districts have doses in storage, they’re all earmarked for a destination, she said. 


Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen  

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