Idaho health officials are using public appeals by Governor Butch Otter to encourage more people to get the H1N1 vaccine before the end of the year. Officials are also offering the vaccine at more places, but some locations could cost consumers more.
Otter told state employees to get the vaccine before they head to Christmas gatherings. “By getting vaccinated before the holidays, we can help protect our friends and loved ones,” he wrote in a memo to state workers last week. Otter also recorded a 30-second public service announcement encouraging kids to get vaccinated. Watch Otter’s video (featuring PBS’ animated Sid the Science Kid and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services):
There’s been recent concern over the nationwide recall of 800,000 H1N1 vaccines. Department of Health and Welfare officials said Idaho received a small amount of the recalled doses, but said they don’t pose a safety risk and that no one should get revaccinated.
Public health agencies have made it easier to get the vaccine after it was made available to all Idahoans 6 months and older. The Central District Health Department held a free clinic less than a mile from the Idaho State Capitol in Boise on Wednesday. CDHD spokesman Dave Fotsch said staff gave out just under a 1,000 doses of the H1N1 antigen in four hours, which he said was a good amount. The CDHD will hold its last free clinics of the year Monday night in Boise and Meridian, and will continue ongoing school vaccination programs through February.
If Treasure Valley residents can’t make it to free clinics, they can pay to get the vaccine elsewhere. The CDHD, covering Ada, Boise, Valley, and Elmore counties, has also distributed the federally-produced vaccine to pharmacies at Wal-Mart, Costco, and other private providers. Pharmacies can charge up to $19.07 in administrative fees for giving away the vaccine.
Fotsch said CDHD is working with pharmacies to make it easier for everyone to get immunized. “Some people don’t want to wait outside in the cold,” Fotsch said. “I don’t blame them, especially elderly folks.”
Many health insurance plans and Medicaid cover the administrative cost of the vaccine. The state and private providers like pharmacies get the vaccine for free thanks to federal funding. “Citizens pay for it one way or another,” Fotsch said. “If you decide to go to a private provider to get your vaccine, you are in effect paying for it twice.”
Private providers received a small fraction of the CDHD’s supply of H1N1 vaccines. The health department has given out over 30,000 free doses at clinics, and a similar amount has gone to hospitals and doctors’ offices. As of last week, less than 10,000 vaccines went to pharmacies.
“We want to make it as available as possible, and that’s why we’ve been working with pharmacies,” Fotsch said.
Idaho’s seven public health districts handle distributing the H1N1 vaccines to citizens. The Panhandle District covering Coeur d’Alene and the five northernmost Idaho counties is also making vaccines available at area pharmacies as well as at free clinics.