In this file photo from January 2021, an elderly man receives a COVID-19 vaccination.

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A slight change with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine plan may help people aged 65 and over get a vaccine more quickly.

The Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory committee (CVAC) voted to recommend moving residents aged 65 and older higher up on the state’s prioritization of people eligible to get vaccinated during its meeting on Jan. 8.

The governor will have the final say on the matter as the committee can only make recommendations to his office. Idaho has been following federal recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which voted to include people 75 and older and frontline essential workers in Phase 1b of vaccine distribution during its Dec. 20 meeting

ACIP recommends people 65 and older be eligible for a vaccine in the following Phase 1c, differing from CVAC’s recommendation made on Friday.

ACIP recommended that frontline essential workers and adults older than 75 be included in the next group for vaccines, but the state committee voted to include adults 65 and over as well.

Amy Gamett, a member of the committee and the Eastern Idaho Public Health Clinical Services Division Administrator, said she was in favor of including adults at 65 and older because it would help decrease hospitalizations in the state.

Other essential workers in the next group include first responders, preschool and K–12 staff, correctional and detention facility staff, food processing workers, grocery and convenience store workers and Idaho National Guard members.

CVAC also voted on Friday to include coroner and medical examiners, Idaho Fish and Game officers, USDA officers and food processing plant inspectors, child welfare workers, child protection services workers, food pantry workers and behavioral health treatment staff to their recommendations of essential workers.

Madison County Commissioner Brent Mendenhall, who also is a member of the EIPH board, said Madison County Sheriff Rick Henry told him there was concern from the Idaho Sheriff’s Association about jail staff during the Jan. 11 commissioner’s meeting.

“I’d at least like to mention the concern of the Idaho Sherriff’s Association from Madison County (to the health board) because we have COVID in our jail and those frontline workers are exposed,” Mendenhall said.

He said he was also concerned with prosecutors because of their proximity to inmates at jails.

Mendenhall added that Madison Memorial Hospital reported to him that there are “little to none” of the hospital’s staff turning down the vaccine.

As of Jan. 10, there are 511 reported active COVID-19 cases in the region and there have been 182 deaths.

There are 121 reported active cases in Madison County and the active case rate is at 30.3 per 10,000. There have been 21 COVID-19 deaths in the county.

“Things are holding in Madison County,” Mendenhall said. “It’s a little disappointing to walk into Walmart and see people that are 70 and older not wearing masks … It just can’t be regulated.”

In Fremont County, there are nine reported active cases and the active case rate is at 6.0 per 10,000. There have been 14 COVID-19 deaths in the county.