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Idaho governor pledges to explain COVID-19 vaccine safety

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 10, 2020

The first patient enrolled in Pfizer’s COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, gets a trial vaccine on May 4.  (University of Maryland School of Medicine)
The first patient enrolled in Pfizer’s COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, gets a trial vaccine on May 4. (University of Maryland School of Medicine)
By Keith Ridler Associated Press

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Brad Little pledged Tuesday to explain the safety and effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine to Idaho residents once it becomes available.

The Republican governor made the promise during an hourlong call-in program put on by the American Association of Retired Persons of Idaho that Little has been participating in regularly since COVID-19 entered the state.

“You have my pledge that as we get closer to having a vaccine, there will be an all-out Idaho effort to explain to everybody the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine,” Little told a caller who described himself as an 80-year-old veteran.

Health officials have warned of a “twindemic” this winter as coronavirus infections combined with flu infections could overwhelm the state’s intertwined health care system, which in recent weeks has shown early signs of buckling as COVID-19 cases have spiked.

Many Idaho residents view vaccinations with suspicion, and the state is near the bottom compared with other states for rates of flu vaccinations. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50% of children 6 months to 17 years old in Idaho got a flu shot last flu season, the third-lowest rate in the nation. Among adults, about 41% got flu shots, putting Idaho ninth from the bottom.

“We don’t have a (COVID-19) vaccine mandate,” Little said. “But it’s highly recommended, and we’re going to do all we can for the public of Idaho to be comfortable in getting the vaccine for themselves and their family members.”

Idaho Director of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen also took part in the call-in program. He said Idaho will get an initial batch of the vaccine along with other states that will first be used to protect health care workers.

“When it first comes out, it will be limited,” he said. “And so that’s why it will be focused on health care workers. And it probably won’t be even enough in that first round. And right behind that are high-risk populations.”

High-risk populations for COVID-19 are generally older adults with pre-existing health problems.

It’s not exactly clear when the vaccine will be available.

Pfizer Inc. said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be a remarkable 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results. The company said it is now on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Authorities said it is unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year, and the limited initial supplies will be rationed.

“It won’t be the case that we’ll be waiting for other states or larger states to go in front of us,” Jeppesen said. “We’ll get our proportionate share of the vaccine available.”

Johns Hopkins University reports that Idaho through Monday had nearly 75,000 infections and about 700 deaths. The virus has surged in the state in recent weeks, with a health care facility in south-central Idaho reporting it had to send patients elsewhere because it was full due to COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Supreme Court on Monday issued an order banning jury trials in state courts until Jan. 4. The court said that the percentage of counties with low enough incidence rates to allow jury trials fell from 91% in early September to 5% in early November, causing too many disruptions in the court system.

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