POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Residents of Independence Home in Pocatello were buzzing with excitement Monday while receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It gives me a little hope of getting out of here soon," said Jesse Schell, a resident of the home.
Each of the 14 residents of the long-term care facility (LTCF) opted to get the vaccine when it was made available to them, as well as 7 of the 10 staff members.
“They’ve been waiting for weeks. They are absolutely astonished. They’re so excited to know the staff members are doing it too,” said Saige Oliver, activities director for Independence Home.
They are just some of the 250 residents and staff of southeastern Idaho's LTCF who will be getting the Moderna shot this week, according to Southeastern Idaho Public Health (SIPH).
But there are 40 facilities like Independence Home in the district, which means there's still a long ways to go.
The coronavirus has ravaged southeast Idaho's LTCF, creating multiple outbreaks in facilities. More than 30 residents in the district died from the virus in 2020--according to the most recent data--23 in Bannock County, 4 in Caribou, 3 in Bingham, 3 in Franklin, 1 in Oneida and 1 in Power County.
Independence Home had an outbreak of 6 people test positive for the virus. Fortunately, nobody died, but it was taxing on the residents, who were confined to their rooms for weeks except to go to the bathroom.
“Like I said, hopefully it will be a step in the right direction, because they need to get out of here and see their families and friends. Life in general for all of us I feel like needs to go back to normal,” Oliver said.
As of Jan. 4, SIPH has distributed 5,350 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to area hospitals, health care agencies, and Health West, who will be helping them administer the vaccine to long-term care facilities that opted out of the Pharmacy Partnership Program.
Most of the 40 LTCF in health district 6 opted to be part of the Pharmacy Partnership Program, and will receive their vaccine through Walgreens or CVS.
But some, like Independence Home, will get their shots from SIPH, who sends "strike teams" of public health nurses to the home to administer the vaccine.
“I am just so happy. It’s like a big weight off my shoulders,” said Liana Gutierrez, administrator for Independence Home.