Thousands Of Utahns Vaccinated Under New Eligibility Requirements
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Thousands of Utahns who now qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine queued up for shots Monday after the state expanded the vaccine rollout to include residents age 50 and older, along with those who are age 16 and older with certain medical conditions.
On Friday, the day after the announcement was made, more than 6,500 people signed up to get the shot in the coming days in Salt Lake County. Health officials said they added thousands of appointments and, as of Monday, still had around 20,000 slots available through April 3.
“It’s very exciting to see so much enthusiasm,” said Gabe Moreno with the Salt Lake County Health Department. “We’ve seen a lot of people that are in this new eligibility group that are coming in and signing up, so it is very encouraging.”
Utah County opened a new vaccine site in American Fork Monday to keep up with demand, increasing the county’s capacity to 5,000 shots a day and between three sites, and about 25,000 a week.
“We want to meet that,” said Danielle Chapman with the Utah County Health Department. “We want to be able to let anyone who wants the vaccine to get it when their time comes.”
Southwestern Utah Public Health officials said it worked out technical difficulties that popped up in the past and have gotten ahead of demand. They are holding three mass clinics this week, including one that offers the new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
“With still some openings this afternoon on a Monday, that’s kind of a good sign showing that demand is not so frustratingly hard where people haven’t been able to get in for weeks. So hopefully people take advantage of the new availability,” said SWUPHD spokesperson David Heaton. “We’re seeing that most of our residents, we believe, want to get vaccinated even though maybe it was hard at first getting in. It’s more available than ever with new age and health guidelines.”
The Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy was one of several sites across the state accepting the new groups of eligible people.
“It’s just a huge relief because me, my mom and my brother all have the same kidney disease,” said resident Sophie Agutter.
Agutter has polycystic kidney disease, making her eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine on Monday. Her mother didn’t leave her side.
“I could cry right now how relieved I am about getting the shot and getting my at-risk kids vaccinated. It’s huge to me,” said Karri Schlegel, who got the vaccine last week.
“It’s just mental relief. I mean we’re not going to stop wearing masks, we’re not going to start gathering in big groups,” she added. “I didn’t realize how much stress I had gotten used to over the past year.”
There is no guarantee what the weeks ahead will look like, but for Agutter, who opted to do her senior year online, another dose of the vaccine was another dose of relief as she finishes out her high school years.
“I graduate this year from high school, so it’s a little bit of hope for maybe a graduation party with vaccinated people,” she said. “It’s just the light at the end of the tunnel, I think, for a hard school year and like a year for everybody.”
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