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Some Utahns Hope To Get COVID-19 Vaccines On Standby

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – We’ve all heard stories of COVID-19 vaccines going to waste if doses are leftover at the end of the day. But what if you’re a vaccine hunter hoping to get lucky without an appointment in Utah?

KSL TV spoke with health departments in Utah’s five largest counties to find out.

For 56-year-old Terri Woolf, loyal friends like her large black Labrador, Hendrix, are good company when family is distant and life worrisome.

“That would be catastrophic,” said Woolf, who lives in Sandy.

Woolf has a patent foramen ovale — a hole between the upper chambers of her heart — a condition that makes her more prone to blood clots. She’s terrified of getting COVID-19. “Dying, but also long-term health consequences,” she said.

But she doesn’t yet qualify for the vaccine. She’s volunteering at a mass clinic at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy.

“I want to help us get through this faster,” Woolf said.

She’s also hoping to get an extra dose of the vaccine. In several counties in Utah — that just might work.

“We’re very, very careful about not drawing up doses in advance so that we don’t have spare doses,” said Dr. Audrey Stevenson, director of the Salt Lake County Health Department’s Family Health Division.

She said while no-shows are uncommon, open vials must be used within six hours. It’s up to each county to decide how to use any leftover doses.

In Salt Lake County, extras go to “volunteers that have been working at the venues or licensed individuals that are providing vaccine or some other type of service to the vaccine effort,” Stevenson said.

The Weber-Morgan Health Department created a waiting list for their leftover doses. After about 2,000 signed up, they stopped adding names. They found most on the list already received a shot before their name came up.

WMHD public information officer Lori Buttars said they don’t ever throw doses away. Excess doses generally go to volunteers.

“We actually don’t puncture the vial until we have the people in the building to get the doses,” Buttars said.

In Davis County, extra doses go to staff.

“If you’re a vaccine hunter in Davis County, you’re not gonna have all that great luck,” said Trevor Warner, Davis County Health Department communications manager. “More times than not we are turning people away.”

In Utah County, there’s no standby list. Extras also go to volunteers and staff, and waitlisted people who are eligible, according to Aislynn Tolman-Hill, Utah County Health Department public information officer.

“From the beginning in December, we haven’t wasted one dose,” she said. “As we get closer to the end of the day, we see how many are scheduled. When we have the last group of people, we do a count. Sometimes it’s the exact number of doses, sometimes not.”

Washington County allows drop-ins at the end of the day who still meet eligibility requirements, said Dave Heaton, Southwest Utah Public Health Department public information officer. “If they’re open and have to be used, we’ve had people show up at the end of the clinic and occasionally we’ll take in those people. We also have a waiting list and are having a hard time getting in.”

Woolf looks forward to the day she gets vaccinated. She said she’ll feel “relief, probably first, grateful. (It’s) peace of mind.”

For now, experts encourage patience and said soon there will be plenty of the vaccine for everyone.

To find out if you might be eligible to receive excess doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, call your local health department or visit their website for more information.


Coronavirus Resources

Have you or a family member been affected by coronavirus issues in Utah? KSL wants to hear from you. Contact KSL by emailing social@ksl.com.

Click here to sign up for a vaccine.

The latest coronavirus stories from KSL can be found here.

How do I prevent it?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

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