Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution Speeding Up Across Utah

Dec 30, 2020, 7:08 PM | Updated: 10:07 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – More than 23,000 vaccinations have been administered in Utah, out of the 125,000 doses that have been shipped to the state. Officials said the massive effort has been “picking up steam.”

Officials with the Utah Department of Health said their efforts in the ongoing efforts to vaccinate those who work with patients with COVID-19 have been ramping up since the first doses were administered.

It took the state two weeks to administer 17,543 doses of the vaccine – about 1,200 a day.

Those first doses went to medical workers

The state has since expanded its rollout to include long-term care facility staff and residents and nonhospital healthcare workers.

In just two days they gave the vaccine to 6,427 people for a total of 23,970 doses administered. That was still just 20 percent of the amount of vaccine that has been shipped to the state since the start of the rollout.

“The initial rollout of the vaccine has been slow. Really, slower than what we had anticipated, and really slower than what we wanted,” said Rich Lakin, the immunization program manager at the Utah Department of Health. “But we are picking up some steam.”

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Lakin said the latest and biggest group of individuals being vaccinated was non-hospital health care workers.

These are healthcare providers who work out of hospital settings, but still have direct contact with patients, like EMTs, paramedics, dentists and others who offer care at home.

Lakin urged those in this group not to delay making an appointment to get the vaccine.

“We are starting to see this vaccine rollout a lot quicker than what we had seen in the past,” Lakin said.

The biggest driver behind the push to get out the vaccine will be local health departments, officials said.

“We’ve been in the vaccination game a long time,” said Brian Hatch, director of the Davis County Health Department.

“We need those who have been prioritized to come forward quickly so that we can get you through and move on to the next priority groups,” Hatch said.

Davis County Health was one of several local departments hosting drive-thru clinics for non-hospital health care workers.

They gave nearly 1,000 people the first dose of the vaccine Tuesday. The next day they were on track to administer the vaccine to around 1,200 people.

“I’ve been very excited to get this vaccine and ready for all of this to just go away,” said Jennifer Parkinson, a registered nurse who works in hospice care. “I mean, I have a husband who’s post cancer at home and I want to make sure he’s safe.”

Parkinson made an appointment and got in line in the afternoon.

The drive-thru takes each driver into the Davis County Legacy Center, where they can hold up to 28 cars. Parkinson said it took less than a half an hour to get through from beginning to end.

She said she was grateful to have the first dose.

“We’re out in the public constantly, interacting with patients in and out of homes and communities, things like that. It’s a safety,” she said. “It’s like a layer of protection – just that calming effect.”

“What you’re seeing is that bright light at the end of the tunnel. People are happy,” Hatch said.

Lakin said they’ve encouraged hospitals to also pick up the pace of vaccinating their workers.

Officials with University of Utah Hospital estimated 90 percent of the doses they’ve received have been administered. Intermountain Healthcare administered 1,900 doses on Tuesday, 3,000 on Wednesday and they expect to have 100 percent of doses administered by Sunday.

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