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Idaho Health Leaders Emphasize Importance Of COVID-19 Vaccines As Demand Plummets

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Idaho continues to rank among the states with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates. On Tuesday, 36.3% of the state’s population had received at least one dose and only four states ranked below Idaho on that measure.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said in a media briefing Tuesday that when the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was authorized for kids between the ages of 12 and 15, there was a small uptick of excited parents bringing in their kids to get vaccinated. But she said that enthusiasm among parents and teens had since gone down.

“We’re very concerned people will lose their interest in this and we have a lot of work to do before school starts,” Hahn said.

Only about 9% of teens in that age group have gotten their first dose. Many more seniors 65 and older have gotten the shots — about 75% of them have received at least one. But that’s still not as high as the state would like. It set a goal of vaccinating 80% of seniors by June 1.

“We’re so close,” said Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch. “We’re very hopeful we’ll be able to achieve that through some of the efforts we have going on.”

The state made $9 million available early last month for providers and organizations to apply for grants to boost the state’s vaccination rates. So far, about $2.6 million has been allocated to related projects.

During Tuesday’s briefing, Dr. Christopher Ball, the director of Idaho Bureau of Laboratories, emphasized the increasingly important role the COVID-19 vaccines play in protecting people from new virus variants that are circulating.

“We’re seeing an increasing volume of these variants of public health concern,” Ball said, “and it really serves to re-emphasize that message that vaccination is really important.”

He said Idaho’s rate of variant cases are on par with the rest of Northwest, and the vaccines have been effective against the variants thus far.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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