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More than 90% of Idaho’s COVID cases now are among the unvaccinated

Broward Health Hospital Administers First Of Its Moderna Vaccine
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Vaccine. Photo from Idaho Capital Sun

The vaccines are proving to be effective in real-world scenarios.

More than 90% of newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Idaho “have no record of being vaccinated” against the coronavirus, Idaho Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner said Tuesday.

The numbers underscore how effective the vaccines have been, not only in controlled clinical trials. A study published Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines reduced the risk of infection by 91% for people who are “fully vaccinated,” or two weeks after their second shot. For people not yet fully vaccinated, the first dose reduced the risk by 81%, the study found.

And those who do get infected fare much better if they’ve been vaccinated, the study found.

“For example, fully or partially vaccinated people who developed COVID-19 spent on average six fewer total days sick and two fewer days sick in bed,” the study said. “They also had about a 60% lower risk of developing symptoms, like fever or chills, compared to those who were unvaccinated.”

That has been true in Idaho, too, according to recent summaries from Idaho public health officials.

So-called “breakthrough” infections make up a small share of Idaho’s new COVID-19 cases. With more than 600,000 Idahoans now having reached “fully vaccinated” status, the number of vaccinated people who catch the coronavirus is sure to increase.

Idaho’s COVID-19 outbreaks have simmered down since vaccines began to roll out widely to all Idahoans age 12 and older. The state has been reporting fewer than 200 new coronavirus cases per day, with test-positivity rates below 5% signaling that outbreaks are at manageable levels.

But the state trails behind the national average for coronavirus vaccination rates. Nearly 64% of all U.S. adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine; in Idaho, the rate so far is only 49.1% of adults.

State public health officials on Tuesday stressed that they’re slowly making progress on getting Idahoans protected from the virus.

They said the state is examining which approaches have been successful. They have seen better uptake when bringing vaccines out to the public, such as with small pop-up clinics at libraries; working with employers to offer vaccines to workers; and making sure hesitant Idahoans have time to ask health care providers any questions they have about the vaccine.

Idaho Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch reiterated the state’s position on incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated: It’s open to all options. Other state and local governments have offered lotteries, scholarships and other rewards to people who choose to roll up their sleeves.

While there’s no such Idaho incentive in place right now, it isn’t off the table, Shaw-Tulloch said.