POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) - As the country celebrated reaching 50% of American adults vaccinated, Idaho missed its first vaccination goal by just 5%.
As of June 2, 74.8% of the 65 and older population has been vaccinated, according to data from the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare. State officials' goal was to have 80% of seniors vaccinated by June 1.
Maggie Mann, the district director of Southeast Idaho Public Health, said we don’t yet know how the stragglers will affect our ultimate goal of herd immunity.
“We don’t really know yet, what herd immunity means with this particular virus. We just continue to try to learn day by day as we go forward. Certainly, the more of the population that is vaccinated and protected against Covid-19, the better,” Mann said.
Half of Idaho adults are now vaccinated, leaving plenty of doses available to the more hesitant half of the state.
Idaho’s vaccination rates have historically been some of the lowest in the country, with fewer than half the state getting their yearly flu shot. And a novel vaccine quickly rolled out to the public makes many Idahoans nervous.
Several surveys suggest about 28% of the state is unsure whether they want a Covid-19 shot. Some are concerned about efficacy or safety, and want to see what happens as others go first.
The best way to encourage that hesitant population, Mann said, is with education.
“We really are just trying to listen to people, give them the opportunity to ask questions about concerns they have, and share the information we have about the vaccine,” Mann said.
But another 18% of the state is absolutely not going to get a Covid-19 shot. Some are vehemently against policies enforcing vaccination status.
Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Idaho Falls, on Tuesday announced on Facebook he would be boycotting businesses that require employees to get vaccinated, saying “Please list any business that is making it a requirement for employees to be vaccinated. I will not give them my business and hope others will follow suit.”
Some stores, like Fred Meyer, are asking patrons who are not vaccinated to wear a mask in their business.
“Where our communities don’t have the progress we had hoped to have seen towards that 80% target, it’s certainly a reasonable thing for (businesses) to ask,” Mann said.
Some states are offering incentives for people to get vaccinated. In West Virginia, those who get vaccinated now can enter into a lottery to win prizes like shotguns, trucks and hunting licenses.
In Ohio, the $1 million vaccine lottery was shown to be very effective in speeding up inoculation, boosting the vaccination rate by 45%.
So far, Gov. Brad Little has not announced any state incentives, but his office confirmed to Local News 8 they are “open to exploring new options that result in more Idahoans choosing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”