© 2022 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

COVID-19 booster doses are popular in under-vaccinated Idaho

A nurse with blue gloves is administering a shot in someone's arm.
Richard Villalon
Adobe Stock

Idaho has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, but booster shots are in demand in the Gem State among those already vaccinated.

About 45% of people in Idaho are fully vaccinated; only West Virginia has a lower rate for the total population. And Idaho’s vaccination rates have not substantially increased in the past couple months, even as hospitals have been in crisis standards of care for about two months.

For boosters, it’s a different story. So far, Idaho is among the top 10 states with the highest percentages of vaccinated people who’ve gotten an extra shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Slightly more than 1 in 5 fully vaccinated people in Idaho has gotten an additional dose.

An extra shot can mean a third dose for immunocompromised people or a booster shot for people who qualify.

Kevin Shrumm from Meridian got a third dose in August, when he became eligible. He said he’s immunocompromised, and probably would’ve gotten it regardless of the COVID situation in the community. But with Idaho’s COVID surge in September and the declaration of crisis, the extra protection made him feel safer.

“I mean, we never want to go to the hospital, but we really don’t want to go now,” he said.

Sean Parrish, a pharmacist at Kurt’s Pharmacy in Twin Falls, said they’re busy giving boosters.

“We’re getting a bunch of people in. I bet we do anywhere between 30-40 booster shots alone a day,” he said.

The CDC recommended boosters for the Pfizer vaccine in late September and for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients about a month ago. The rush has only begun to slow in the past few days, Parrish said.

In the past month, Idaho has given out about five times more booster shots in a week than first doses. That’s according to state and CDC data.

“We would ideally like more first doses, but that’s not the trend we’re seeing,” Parrish said.

Jax Perez, who works at a cancer clinic in Boise, got a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week.

“I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything that I could to help take care of our patients,” they said.

The FDA is expected to okay boosters for all adults as soon as Thursday. Some states, including Colorado and California, have expanded eligibility on their own, but so far, Idaho has not.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.