If you’re headed to a vaccine appointment in the Gem State, you’ll need to bring proof that you live or work in Idaho.
State health officials announced the policy Tuesday, requiring providers to verify vaccine eligibility by reviewing documents such as driver’s licenses, mail, utility bills or vouchers from workplaces, doctors or churches.
The announcement comes as state officials revealed that 4,800 people who don’t live or work in Idaho were vaccinated against COVID-19 within the state, which is receiving a smaller share of vaccine doses than most other states. Officials acknowledged that people who live along the state’s borders and people with secondary Idaho homes were receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
Asked why the state was requiring proof now, state health Director Dave Jeppesen said it was to preserve increased capacity administer vaccines.
“Now that we have that capacity, we’re starting to see some demand from other states that may have more limited capacity to come here to get vaccinated, where that wasn’t necessarily the case early in the process,” he said.
“Vaccine is being allocated to the state based on population numbers, which means it’s based on the number of people who live in each state,” Jeppesen told reporters in a Tuesday conference call. “… We want to make sure Idahoans who live and work here have access.”
In a news release, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare urged that “regardless of citizenship or immigration status, all eligible people with a primary residence or who work in Idaho should get vaccinated when it is their turn.”
A day earlier, Gov. Brad Little accepted a state vaccine panel’s recommendations to make workers in an additional handful of jobs eligible to receive shots in early April. That includes essential workers in a few job sectors, including food, agriculture, manufacturing, grocery and convenience stores, and public transit. People who live in homeless shelters also will be included in this priority group.
Some vaccine doses that weren’t shipped last week due to a winter storm that affected much of the country are set to arrive this week in Idaho, in addition to the state’s regular weekly allocations.
State Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said one additional pharmacy chain with 30 locations is receiving vaccines through a federal partnership, raising the total number of weekly shots Idaho is allocated to around 40,000.
By late next week, the state’s steadily growing weekly vaccine allotments might get another big boost if federal regulators grant emergency approval to a new one-shot vaccine by Johnson & Johnson. CBS News reported Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet this weekend to discuss Johnson & Johnson’s version of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“As a single-dose vaccine that can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures for three months, Johnson & Johnson’s candidate had been heralded as a key advance in the U.S. vaccine effort despite its slightly lower efficacy, compared to two-dose vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna,” CBS News wrote.
About 94% of all 265,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses Idaho has received have been administered, Jeppesen said. Around 112,000 Idahoans have received at least their first dose. The two COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in the U.S., produced by Pfizer and Moderna, require a booster dose a few weeks later to be most protective.
The state also is readying a vaccine signup tool that it hopes to have ready in early March, Jeppsen said.
Priority groups after the current group of essential workers are not finalized in Idaho. A state vaccine panel began discussions Friday about what future vaccine access could look like, floating proposals that could put Idahoans age 16 and up with “high-risk medical conditions” first in line, followed by more essential workers. Some panel members expressed interest in abandoning more focused prioritization in favor of an age-based approach that would split Idahoans under 64 into groups of 200,000 each. No final decisions were made. The panel, which advises Little, meets again March 5.Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.