BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little said Tuesday that people 65 and over will be able to get the coronavirus vaccine starting Feb. 1.
The Republican governor said he adopted the recommendation of his COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, saying the state was in the “final stretch of our pandemic fight.”
The 65-to-74 age group previously hadn't been expected to get the vaccine until April. Those 75 and above had previously been ahead of them in line.
State health officials also on Tuesday announced that they are immediately transitioning from limiting vaccinations to frontline healthcare workers to also vaccinating frontline essential workers. That group includes firefighters, police, K-12 teachers and staff, daycare workers and prison workers.
Officials said the changes to the Idaho vaccination timeline are due to an expected boost in vaccination doses coming into the state from the federal government. The previous timeline had been based on 20,000 doses entering the state each week.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced earlier in the day a series of major changes to increase supply of vaccines, extend eligibility to more seniors and provide more locations for people to get shots. Administration officials describing the new policies conveyed a notable sense of urgency.
Idaho officials said they hadn't yet received from federal officials the number of weekly doses the state will receive now.
The group first in line to get the vaccine are front-line healthcare workers. They number about 130,000, and they have been getting the shots since last month. Nearly 40,000 doses of the two-shot vaccine have been administered.
Officials said there will be overlap among the groups getting vaccinated based on supply, demand and the ability to administer vaccinations around the state.
“It’s really going to be an ongoing daily, if not hourly, planning exercise,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said.
The second group now also eligible for the shots, as announced Tuesday, are the frontline essential workers, including firefighters and others.
The third group to get vaccines are those age 65 and over starting Feb. 1. Also eligible for vaccinations beginning Feb. 1 are food and agriculture workers, grocery and convenience store workers, food pantry workers, Idaho National Guard members not already included in the healthcare group, manufacturing workers, public transit workers and U.S. Postal Service workers.
That group now adds up to about 500,000 with the addition of people 65 and over.
“The 65-and-older population is enormous, and there is still work actively being done to build up capacity among our providers to take on this population," said Little, who is 66.
Next up starting in March, according to the current timeline, are people ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions that make them more susceptible to severe illness or death from COVID-19, and essential workers not included in earlier groups.
The final group to start getting the vaccine in May is listed as the general public age 16 and over. So far, there is no COVID-19 vaccine authorized for those ages 15 and below.