North Idaho vaccine providers seeing demand slow down

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho — There were quite a few empty seats inside the mass vaccination clinic at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

Volunteers were waiting around to help get those shots in arms, but fewer people showed up to get it.

“We’ve certainly seen a dip in our appointments being scheduled throughout the five northern counties that we serve,” said Katherine Hoyer, the public information officer for the Panhandle Health District (PHD).

The Panhandle Health District runs the Kootenai County Fairgrounds vaccination site. It used to be hustling and bustling. The mass vaccination clinic can vaccinate up to 600 people, having it booked up within even an hour of opening appointments in the past

However, that demand for the vaccine is slowing down. On Monday, it saw about 250 people get vaccinated; Tuesday, about 180 people.

The slow down, this early, came as a surprise to Hoyer.

“We did not expect that, especially in the beginning, it was a mad rush,” she said. “Everyone wanted the vaccine, we couldn’t keep up with the demand, and now it’s slowed so much, we have an overabundance of vaccine in our area now.”

While there are fewer people coming to get their shots, Hoyer said vaccine waste has been kept to a minimum since PHD does appointments only instead of walk-ins.

Heritage Health, which runs a vaccine clinic inside the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center, will actually start taking walk-ins next week from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. It has not done that since it started giving out vaccines.

Peter Purrington, the chief clinical officer for Heritage Health, says they’re also seeing the same trend in appointments slowing down.

Heritage Health is currently vaccinating people five days a week at the location in Coeur d’Alene. It will soon consolidate down to three days, running from Tuesday through Thursday.

“It’s been an effort to consolidate some of our resources just so we’re able to provide the maximum capacity on the three days instead of spreading our resources for five days. Supply has definitely outpaced demand in the past month or two already,” he told 4 News Now.

So, why are there so many open seats and available appointments?

Some people want to wait and see, hesitant to get the vaccine still. There are also those who don’t trust the vaccine and some who won’t get it at all.

“We do encourage people that if you do have questions, or if you’re hesitant or have concerns, please contact your healthcare provider, contact Panhandle Health District,” Hoyer said. “We’re happy to walk you through that and address the concerns.”

If demand continues to be low for vaccine appointments, Hoyer says it’s possible the district could close down some of the mass vaccination clinics in other counties. Kootenai County would not be one, since it does still see at least a couple hundred people a week.

The health district would switch from those mass vaccination sites to just giving the vaccines in its offices, knowing it could just use its current staff rather than so many volunteers and a big place.

To find out more information on how to book an appointment with the Panhandle Health District, click here. For Heritage Health, click here.

RELATED: Coeur d’Alene Schools eliminates mask mandate in the classroom

RELATED: ‘It felt like I could relax a bit’: Spokane man goes from reluctant to vaccinated