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S. Idaho health providers explain COVID-19 vaccine rollout process

“We want to make sure we never waste a single dose”
Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 6:48 PM MST
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Many are anxiously awaiting their turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Beginning Feb. 1, those age 65 and older should be able to get their first dose. Putting you first, KMVT answers questions regarding the process.

Health care professionals across the Gem State are trying to get COVID-19 vaccines into people’s arms as quickly as possible, but it all comes down to supply.

“Idaho currently, we are getting close, to — out of the caregivers, whether that’s emergency responders, first responders, moving into the 65 plus age group,” said Trevor Dschaak, who works at Intermountain Cassia Regional Hospital. “The difficulty with that is going to be supply is going to be a difficulty because now we are talking thousands of people at once now qualify, and then the coordinating of venue, of manpower.”

Here are the 4 distribution tiers: Group 1, began in December; health care workers, emergency services, long-term care facility staff and residents.

Group 2.1, Began in January: first responders, teachers and staff, child care staff, correctional facilities staff.

Group 2.1 Feb. 1, those age 65 and older can begin receiving their first dose.

Many have questions such as “how do I make my appointment, where do I go for my shot, why can’t I get an appointment?”

Each week the federal government decides how many vaccines to give to each state. The state then gives it to the different public health districts. Those public health districts then give it to different local providers to get those shots in people’s arms.

“We have a series, a whole group in fact of local providers who put in orders to us,” said Brianna Bodily with the South Central Public Health District. “This is how much vaccine I can use, and that helps us figure out how much to send to different providers. They might not get as much vaccine as they’ve asked for but, it helps us figure out which providers can use more, and which provider is limited to 100 doses that week.”

Because the state doesn’t know how much vaccine they will get until that week, the appointments are made on a weekly basis and fill up quickly.

“At the recommendation of public health, which is the same way they are doing it, because of the inconsistencies in the number of doses, we are not scheduling more than a week in advance,” said Shellie Amundson with North Canyon Medical Center. “So we have everything scheduled for next week, very limited numbers. Hopefully, next Monday or Tuesday we can open up the phone lines and start scheduling everything for the following week.”

Each provider has a different way of making vaccine appointments. For example, North Canyon Medical Center in Gooding has a phone line to call, while St. Luke’s is using the online service ‘myChart’ to secure a spot.

“What they’ll do, this will not work today, and it won’t work over the weekend because we won’t activate the phone lines until early next week, but the phone number is 934-4747 and it is a dedicated phone line for the COVID vaccine schedule,” Amundson said.

St. Luke’s will open its vaccination appointment system on Monday through myChart.

While it may be frustrating or difficult to get an appointment, each provider can only work with how many doses they are given, and how many people they have working there.

“Please use whatever system they have set up, if you do have a provider that you like very well, and they have asked you to go online and register, please honor that so they can get through as many people as possible, and so they can focus their staffing on giving the vaccine, instead of having to man phone calls,” Bodily said.

Many providers will also have a waitlist because the vaccine is only usable for a short time after being taken out of the freezer, and they don’t want to waste a single dose.

“Once they are out, once they’re thawed, once they are diluted, you are looking at using it that day, and we don’t waste doses,” Dschaak said. “If it comes down to it and we have extra doses, we are going to make sure they get out to people. We have a list we can call, or second doses we can call because we want to make sure we never waste a single dose.”

For a list of providers giving the vaccine, click here.

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