Utah’s COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Outpacing Demand

May 10, 2021, 7:01 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2023, 1:35 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — About 1 in every 3 Utahns have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but demand for the shot is down and Utah Department of Health officials said they are working to minimize the number of doses that go to waste.

“We’ll just keep pushing forward to get as many Utahns as we can vaccinated,” said Rich Lakin, immunization director at the Utah Department of Health.

That has been the goal from the beginning, but five months into the vaccine rollout and demand is down sooner than expected, which makes reaching their goal look a bit different.

“At some point, we knew the shift would go and that there would be more supply than demand, and that is occurring right now,” Lakin said.

The drop in demand means the health department will order fewer doses than the state is allotted some weeks.

Lakin said they “make that decision based on current needs.”

Up to this point, he said the state “has been really good about limiting wasted doses.”

The state has never wasted any because it sat on the shelf too long, he said, but there have been cases of doses wasted because a vile broke or was opened and not all of the doses were used.

Lakin said we’ll likely see more wasted doses in the near future.

“We’re at the point now where there could be an increase in the amount of doses that would be wasted, and that would be that the demand is not there,” he said.

Lakin said they expected the drop in demand and a shift in the way they distribute the vaccine at the end of May, but it came three to four weeks earlier than anticipated.

The state is now moving toward what he called normal vaccine operations. In other words, inching closer to how health departments typically administer a shot like the flu vaccine.

“The reason we make this shift in the supply and demand is we know that not everyone wants to go to mass clinics,” he said. “We know that some people want to go to pharmacies, their private physicians or their clinic. Or they want it to have — just like flu clinics — they want their place of business to have the vaccine brought to them, so that’s kind of the process that we’re doing now to meet that supply and demand.”

Dr. Kristin Dascomb, an infectious disease physician and medical director for infection prevention employee health for Intermountain Healthcare, said it was a difficult task combating vaccine hesitancy and access to the vaccine.

She said the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine added to the hesitancy many already felt about getting the vaccine.

“We want to get them with their health care provider to make sure they’re getting it from someone they trust,” Dr. Dascomb said. “Giving them more options, giving them education from someone they trust, answering all of their questions.”

Dascomb noted other challenges with bringing the COVID vaccine to small, private clinics and physician offices. Those include storing the doses in the proper place and temperature, and then determining how many doses will need to be taken out without removing too many.

“We have to make sure we’re strategizing to get small amounts of vaccine to small clinics where they can use it and use it up, and we don’t want to leave any on the table either,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure we get those to places in the small enough quantities that they can use them and use them all up as much as possible.”

The demand for the vaccine may not look like it did months ago, but vaccine access and availability is up in many counties.

“The way that we’re getting rid of this pandemic is through vaccination. It’s been very clear,” Lakin said. “More people you have vaccinated, we’re seeing that trend go down. We’re seeing cases go down, etcetera, and so, we really need to continue with the vaccination.”

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Utah’s COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Outpacing Demand