Hillcrest vaccinations

Stephanie Perrenoud, pharmacy technician at Mountain View Hospital, prepares a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination event at Hillcrest High School in Ammon on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021.

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Idaho health officials hope to have 80% of residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by early fall.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch announced the goal in a Tuesday news conference.

About 39% of all Idahoans age 16 and up have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"All the interim measures that we're talking about right now are really preliminary measures. We're looking at September potentially for that 80% target," Shaw-Tulloch said. Children must be included in that goal, she said.

The news came during a critical juncture in the nation's vaccine rollout — as worry swirled over swift moves earlier Tuesday to temporarily halt use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the U.S. so federal regulators can review claims that a handful of cases of blood clots may be linked to the shot.

No COVID-19 vaccines are licensed for children under age 16. Only one vaccine, the two-dose mRNA vaccine by Pfizer, is allowed to be used in children aged 16 and 17. The J&J vaccine uses different technology than the two-dose vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna, which are still recommended for use.

A quarter of Idaho's 1.8 million population is estimated to be under age 18.

State public health researcher Christine Hahn said a vaccine may be available for children age 12 to 15 by September. That's because Pfizer recently applied for a review by the Food and Drug Administration to let younger teens use its vaccine.

Hahn said the first plank of the state's goal will be to get 80% of seniors fully vaccinated by June. State data on Monday showed nearly 71% of seniors had received at least one vaccine dose, while about 63% were fully vaccinated.

The state hopes to diversify vaccination sites with more clinics that are mobile, at public venues or community events, Shaw-Tulloch said. She said the state is also working with business leaders to "provide incentives" for vaccination, such as paid time off and on-site clinics.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said the state is planning for a second survey to gauge how Idahoans feel about COVID-19 vaccines. He did not offer a timeline for when that survey may be conducted.

About a fifth of Idahoans told pollsters in late January that they would never get a COVID-19 vaccine, the Post Register previously reported. National surveys suggest vaccine hesitancy has decreased since then. The Idaho health department had said until Tuesday that it did not have plans to conduct another in-state survey.

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.

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