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South Central Public Health District board members qualify for COVID-19 vaccine

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They are the only health district in the state to offer their board members the vaccine.

BOISE, Idaho — During our exploration of district health boards recently we’ve learned several things. They set budgets, make policy decisions, and are filled by a varying number of positions.

Only one of those positions is required to be filled by a physician – per state law. Just one.

So just being on a health district board doesn’t exactly qualify you as frontline healthcare worker. That is unless you’re on the South Central Public Health District board.

Last week, those members, who three times failed to pass any sort of mask mandate during the pandemic, were offered the COVID-19 vaccine in the same tier as frontline essential workers, because the district considers them public health workers.

“The COVID Vaccine Advisory Committee has put out these guidelines, they’re trying to create guidelines for the entire state, so in many cases they’re just the right amount of specific, and is some cases there is enough room for a little bit of interpretation,” said Brianna Bodily, SCPHD public information officer, “so the way our district director interpreted it was – that board members who are working regularly with staff employees coming in for meetings etcetera, and aren’t able to telecommute full time, would qualify for a vaccine.”

“You can probably see or understand how some people would look at this and say, OK here’s a public health board that didn’t pass any mask mandates and yet they are one of the first getting vaccinated. How can you reconcile that?” asked Brian Holmes.

“I understand the frustration there, there’s a lot of confusion,” Bodily said. “And I think a lot of the frustration comes from a place where many of our residents would like to receive the vaccine. The South Central Public Health District did absolutely support mask mandates in the region. The Board of Health felt like they could not because they were trying to be the bridge in between public health guidance, our health district and county commissioners. 

“And the great majority of our county commissioners were very against those mask mandates, so the board was split about half and half. Now, when this vaccine was provided at no point has the vaccine advisory committee stipulated that people who were against mask wearing, people who didn’t social distance, people who didn’t follow any of the guidelines public health has encouraged, would not qualify for the vaccine. That’s never been a stipulation, so that’s never played any sort of part in determining who qualifies for a vaccine.”

So it’s all based on interpretation.

Not all the board members received the vaccine. Just those who aren’t or haven’t been attending meetings and such virtually.

They are the only health district in the state to do this.

The rest have interpreted that subgroup differently and their board members will wait until their age group or occupation deems it necessary, according to the state’s vaccine advisory committee’s timeline.

South Central Public Health District taking vaccination appointments

Idaho will begin vaccinating those over 65 for COVID-19 starting on Monday, but if you live in the South Central Health District – you can make your appointment right now.

The health district oversees much of the Magic Valley – including Twin Falls, Blaine and Jerome counties.

The health district says some providers have already started making appointments for next week.

But they are reserving the first vaccines for those over 75, saying that age group is at higher risk.

Because of the limited doses, the health district is scheduling appointments a week in advance, and those who sign up will be put on a wait list.


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