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Idaho developing plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccine to the public

The Immunization Program Manager for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said it’s possible some Idahoans could get the vaccine by year’s end.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho healthcare leaders are planning for the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine once it’s authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

While trials continue, The Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare predicts immunizations could begin before the year ends.

“I have my older parents and I also have my kids I worry about too so I would like to see a vaccine of this developed,” Kim Quinn with AstraZeneca said.

Quinn is one of around 30,000 Americans to take part in Astrazeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial. She received her first dose about a week ago. While she isn’t sure if she’s getting the vaccine or a placebo, she’s dealing with some side effects.

“I had a low-grade fever, pain in the injection site, and a little bit of a sore throat,” she said.

While the trial continues, the state is gearing up to distribute tens of thousands of doses of the vaccine once it’s approved for use.

“We are planning for the soonest possible date within a few weeks,” Immunization Program Manager Sarah Leeds said.

This means some Idahoans could get this vaccine before the year’s end.

“I think there’s a strong possibility of that, yeah,” Leeds said. “It will depend on when the first company applies for emergency use authorization.”

Leeds oversees getting a vaccine to Idahoans. At this time, it’s not clear just how many doses the state will get.

“It varies, I would say an average is 50,000 doses initially,” Leeds said

Right now, Leeds believes Pfizer could be the first candidate to get approval.

“We have heard that Pfizer any day now is going to apply for emergency use authorization,” she said.

The process could take a couple of weeks. With a limited supply, healthcare workers will be first in line for the first dose.

“As we can meet the demand, then we’ll move into the populations that are less at risk of infection,” Leeds said.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee is still working to determine who will be placed in which of the three distribution phases. While it is unknown at this time, Phase 1 will be given to healthcare workers and long-term care facility workers.

As supply ramps up, the state will move to the next phase, but there aren’t concrete timelines at this point.

“It’ll be very limited supply in the early days,” Leeds said.

Enough Idahoans need to get the vaccine in order to return to life pre-COVID-19. Dr. David Pate, the retired St. Luke’s CEO and member of the state’s coronavirus working group said around 65%-75% of Idahoans will need to get the vaccine if it has 90% efficacy.

“I feel like they’re not going to release it unless it’s safe,” Quinn said.

The governors from California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington are part of a scientific safety review workgroup. Those states are planning on independently reviewing any vaccine approved by the FDA. Idaho is not planning on doing this and would follow the same steps as any other vaccine.

Once approved, Leeds said the general public can expect to get a chance to get vaccinated around the spring or summer of 2021.

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