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High-Risk Teens May Have To Travel To Get Approved Vaccine

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As more age groups are allowed to get the vaccine in Utah, KSL has learned that local health departments in large portions of the state do not have the vaccine approved for 16- and 17-year-olds.

It’s great news that those age 16 and older with certain health conditions can get the vaccine. However, only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is approved for those under 18 — and you might have to travel to find it.

“We recognize that the Pfizer (vaccine) is not necessarily available everywhere in the state because it does require this ultra-cold storage,” said Tom Hudachko, public information officer for the Utah Department of Health.

The Utah Department of Health is trying to spread the word that 16- and 17 year-olds eligible for the vaccine may have to search.

“So for 16- and 17-year olds who have one of those combined conditions, they’re going to have to do a little bit of leg work and find a location that has a Pfizer vaccine,” Hudachko said.

One of those places where the Pfizer vaccine is not offered by the public health department is in southwest Utah.

“Yeah, it may be pretty scarce in this part of the state right now,” said David Heaton with the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. “Pretty much the only vaccine we’re getting right now and for the foreseeable future will be Moderna, which is only approved for 18 and older. So we’re making that clarification to folks.”

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department covers five counties: Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington.

“We have advised some people to contact local pharmacies,” Heaton said. “We know that occasionally some hospitals and clinics will get shipments.

The good news is that Utah residents can now go to any location in the state for a vaccine.

“We’ve come to calling it vaccinations without borders,” Hudachko said.

If you do travel to a different area, that’s where you must go to get your second shot.

“Plan on making that return trip to three to four weeks to get your second dose,” Hudachko reminded people.

Heaton added, “Ask them upfront, ‘Will I be able to return here to get the second dose after 21 days for Pfizer?’”

The federal government decides the vaccine allocation but the state is monitoring any potential changes with the Pfizer vaccine in the coming weeks.

The Pfizer vaccine is only offered through five public health departments in Utah: Bear River, Davis County, Salt Lake County, Utah County and Weber/Morgan. It’s also available through certain grocery store pharmacies and by invitation only through the University of Utah Hospital.  

You find a list of those locations here.

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