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Idaho Exceeds National Rate for Boosters
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Thursday, December 16, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

While the rate of Idahoans getting vaccinated against COVID-19 still remains under the national average, the rate of those getting a booster dose exceeds the national average.

More than 34 percent of Idahoans 18 and older have received a booster, while only 29.2 percent of Americans nationally have received a booster, according to Idaho Health and Welfare statistics.

About 51.3 percent of Idaho residents 5 and older are fully vaccinated.

CAUTION FLAGS RAISED

While many Idaho hospitals were recently able to back off Crisis Standards of Care, some key indicators are either leveling off or going in the wrong direction, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen told reporters at this week’s COVID briefing.

Idaho averaged 426.93 new cases a day over the week preceding Dec. 13—up from 384.71 on Dec. 6. And hospitalizations have stopped declining. On Saturday, Dec. 11 there were 312 patients with COVID-19 in Idaho hospitals, including 84 in intensive care and 52 on ventilators.

The test positivity rate has stayed at 7 percent during the past four weeks, whereas the target is 5 percent, Jeppesen pointed out.

Idaho has confirmed only one case of Omicron so far. It was confirmed in an Ada County resident on Friday, Dec. 10. The person had traveled out of state and had very mild symptoms, likely due to being vaccinated, said officials for Central District Health.

But state health officials are worried, as Omicron is beginning to compete against the Delta variant, said State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn. Omicron cases now make up more than 90 percent of new COVID cases in South Africa where it was first detected, and it has become the dominant variant in London where Britain's new daily case records are setting records.

European Union officials warn it will be the dominant variant by mid-January in Europe where COVID-19 cases are surging because of a combination of the Delta and Omicron variants. And the World Health Organization director has warned that it is spreading faster than any other COVID variant.

A recent analysis done in South Africa has determined that Pfizer’s COVID vaccine offers 33 percent protection against becoming infected with Omicron but is 70 percent effective against severe infection, said Hahn. Protection from a prior COVID infection does not work as well against Omicron as previous variants, either, said Hahn.

“We are worried that, since it’s believed to be a milder disease, people won’t think they need a vaccine or booster shots. But, as more get infected, that surge of cases will lead to another surge of hospitalizations,” said Hahn. “As more people get infected with something, even if it’s milder, that surge of cases will eventually lead to some percentage of folks being very sick and getting hospitalized.”

SIGNIFICANT DROP IN COVID CASES AMONG NURSING HOME RESIDENTS

More than 4,000 Idaho residents have died of COVID since the pandemic began nearly two years ago. One in four of those deaths were among residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

But State Deputy Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner told reporters that mortality rates in those facilities have dropped by more than half between April and November of this year compared with the same period in 2020.

Jeppesen attributed that to a large number of long-term care residents getting vaccinated after the first vaccine was administered in Idaho on Dec. 14, 2020.

HOW PROTECTIVE IS AN INFECTION?

A significant number of Idahoans have been infected with COVID, and that infection offers some protection against reinfection, said Hahn. But even those individuals would gain more protection from a vaccine, said Hahn.

She quoted a Kentucky study published by the Centers for Disease Control that looked at a large group of people who had had COVID over a long period of time. The ones who got vaccinated were considerably better protected against reinfection compared with those who did not get vaccinated.

“Reinfections sometimes are mild but some who are reinfected end up in hospital,” she said. “And people who are vaccinated transmit the virus to fewer people if they do get infected.”

 


 

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