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Idaho asks court to toss lawsuit challenging vaccine plans

by KEITH RIDLER Associated Press
| April 3, 2021 1:00 AM

BOISE (AP) — A federal judge should require an 87-year-old Idaho man to reveal whether he's received the COVID-19 vaccine following his January lawsuit seeking to put those 65 and older at the front of the line, state officials say.

The state attorney general's office said in documents filed Wednesday that Richard Byrd's lawsuit against Republican Gov. Brad Little and Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen should be thrown out on technical grounds.

But if it's not, state officials say, then Byrd should be forced to reveal whether he's been vaccinated, because that could make the case pointless.

Byrd was not eligible to get the vaccine when he filed the $75,000 lawsuit on Jan. 4 but became eligible on Feb. 1.

Idaho has sped up its vaccine schedule considerably from early January as more doses became available. Now, residents 16 and over can get the vaccine in much of the state.

The attorney general's office is asking the court to require Byrd to reveal how many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine he's received. If the answer is one or zero, state officials want to know what efforts Byrd has made to get the shots. Some vaccines require two shots.

Byrd didn't respond to an email Thursday from The Associated Press.

When Byrd sued, Idaho's vaccine plan focused on about 140,000 front-line health care workers and long-term care residents in an effort to prevent the health care system from being overrun with COVID-19 patients.

At the time, the next group in line was essential workers and adults 75 and over. The second group was to start receiving vaccinations in February, depending on supply.

In his lawsuit, Byrd took issue with prioritizing vaccines for health care workers, saying they tend to be younger, healthier and more likely to survive COVID-19 than older adults.

Little and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare "did with reckless disregard of the rights of the high-risk groups, 65 and over, and to the very high-risk group 80 and over, like myself, allocate the bulk of available COVID-19 vaccine to that low-risk group," Byrd said in the lawsuit.

He also said he wasn't in the first priority group because he lives at home and not in a long-term care facility,

Little changed the vaccine schedule in mid-January, making Byrd eligible for the vaccine in early February. Officials said the change followed an expected boost in doses from the federal government.

In early February, Byrd asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to get involved, but it rejected the request in March.

State officials say about 285,000 Idaho residents are fully vaccinated, and an additional 165,000 have received one dose.

About 180,000 people in Idaho have been infected with COVID-19, and nearly 2,000 have died.