Idaho health officials say idea for incentives is not off the table

HAYDEN, Idaho — Idaho has been slowly keeping up with other states when it comes to getting people vaccinated.

With those 12 and up, they have 61% of the state with at least the first dose and nearly 50% of the state is now fully vaccinated.

Panhandle Health is still struggling with getting shots in arms. Only 38% of people 12 and older in all five north Idaho counties have at least one dose, and about 34% of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

What could drive these numbers up are incentives, like what Washington is doing. Idaho health officials said the idea is not off the table, but also not a for sure thing.

“We have a lot of supply of vaccine and we’re hoping the community comes to receive it,” said Katherine Hoyer, Panhandle Health District (PHD) Public Information Officer.

Since April, 250 doses from PHD clinics have gone to waste. For them, it is disheartening, especially as they are trying to get people vaccinated. This and many other factors have them on board for offering incentives.

Idaho has been fully open for a few weeks, though health officials say people should still get vaccinated. To sweeten the deal, PHD hopes the state will offer a few bonuses.

“We’re fully behind it, yes. Even it increases a couple percentage points, that’s worth it for us to offer an incentive if we can,” Hoyer said.

The idea has been thrown around at the state-level and it was addressed on Tuesday during a briefing.

“We are definitely looking at what’s happening in other states, if we can learn anything from other states about how effective some of those incentive programs are in increasing vaccination rates,” said Elke Shaw-Tulloch, Public Health Administrator at Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

They are also talking to local health districts about what they are seeing in their community. Hoyer said some employers have offered company swag or pint glasses.

“Right now, they’re asking us to let them know when we know of an incentive being offered by like an employer or at a mobile vaccine clinic. Right now we’re gathering that data for them,” Hoyer said.

While nothing is for sure, PHD is doing what they can to encourage people to get vaccinated, whether through mobile clinics or information.

“We’re going to retirement communities, schools, private businesses so they’ve been going fairly well,” Hoyer said. “It breaks down one barrier of transportation, the convivence so we want to make it as easy as possible.”

PHD has a few concerns. Hoyer said positivity rate is between 8-10%, though some counties are lower than that. Transmission is also another worry. Hoyer tells 4 News Now they are seeing community spread and outbreaks in places like schools.

PHD will not offer incentives at the moment, but it hopes the example other states are setting will encourage the state to do the same.

“Obviously we want people to make the decision regardless of any sort of incentive, but in other states it has worked to increase their uptake,” Hoyer said.

Despite what the state health department said, the Governor’s Office said,

The State of Idaho is not actively pursuing a lottery or specific incentives for vaccinated Idahoans at this time. However, the Governor’s Office is open to exploring new options that result in more Idahoans choosing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and Governor Little still encourages all eligible Idahoans to choose to receive the vaccine because it is safe, effective, and will help put an end to the pandemic.

Panhandle Health will host a vaccine clinic at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Plaza shops on Wednesday between 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. You can sign up here.