North Idaho expands vaccine access because of lack of demand

Supplies still limited in Spokane

The Associated Press

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — A decline in demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in far North Idaho has prompted officials to open access to all people 16 and older.

Meanwhile demand remains strong in neighboring Spokane County in Washington state and supplies are still limited.

The Spokesman-Review reported the Panhandle Health District announced Wednesday that providers in Benewah, Boundary, Kootenai, Shoshone and Bonner counties in Idaho are offering doses and appointments for all residents who are 16 and older. Health districts can opt to move through the vaccine phases at different paces in Idaho.

“At the end of the day, we just want to get people vaccinated who are choosing to receive a vaccine,” Don Duffy, an administrator at Panhandle Health District, said in a statement.

The Panhandle has opened up vaccine eligibility ahead of other regions in Idaho. Starting April 5, all Idaho residents who are 16 and older will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Brad Little announced on Wednesday. Currently, all essential workers and all residents older than 55 are eligible to receive one of the three vaccines available.

In Washington, vaccines will likely not open up to everyone 16 and older until a later date. President Joe Biden has set May 1 as the date for when states should be able to open up vaccine eligibility to all adults. There is more demand in Washington, however, which necessitates phases.

Currently, about 40 providers in Spokane County are consistently receiving COVID-19 vaccine doses, according to the Spokane Regional Health District, despite more than 100 facilities locally signed up to distribute vaccine doses.

Appointments continue to fill up quickly, and Kayla Myers, the district vaccine task force leader, said there was a surge in demand when more people became eligible to get vaccinated in Washington last week, including certain high-risk essential workers and pregnant women.

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