1/3 of Summit County’s vaccine doses have gone to non-county residents, exacerbating shortfall
County has recently seen small uptick in supply
Some Summit County staffers sported jackets and neckties when Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson arrived on Friday for a tour of Summit County’s vaccine clinic, one that officials have said can deliver three times the number of doses it receives from the state each week.
After the tour, Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough said local health departments have seen modestly larger vaccine shipments from the state in recent weeks, but revealed some challenges have hit Summit County particularly hard.
“Fully 1/3 of our vaccines so far have been non-residents,” Bullough said. “But they’ve been people who work here, and they’re not people that we want to turn away. So we have, instantly, a shortfall.”
The county had vaccinated about 900 people at the time of Bullough’s comments midday Friday, according to a county spokesperson, a number that does not include vaccinations done by private entities, like Park City Hospital inoculating its workers.
Summit County Nursing Director Derek Moss has said that it benefits the county to vaccinate people who work here but live elsewhere, because those people, like physical therapists and police officers, interact with county residents directly.
Bullough has indicated that he supports the policy, but he has warned publicly that it might lead to a chronic shortfall of vaccine.
Thousands of people who work in Summit County don’t live here, and county officials have said they wouldn’t turn them away if they seek a vaccine here, citing the example of a Park City teacher who lives in Heber.
Henderson said the state has determined the priority groups that are first to receive the vaccine, but that it’s a local decision whether to vaccinate residents from other counties.
“We’re saying who can (receive a vaccine), but the local health departments are using their own process to determine whether or not they will vaccinate someone that comes from another jurisdiction,” Henderson said.
Bullough indicated that the state is working to balance the number of doses between health jurisdictions, but that the distribution is largely based on population.
The county has been receiving 500 doses of vaccine in recent weeks, Bullough said, more than the 400 it was expecting.
Officials have said the state receives around 33,000 doses each week from the U.S. government.
Bullough indicated the bump in vaccine supply is partly because hospital groups are nearly finished vaccinating their employees, allowing more doses to go to governments. He said every local health department received more doses last week, and that he anticipated another small uptick as long-term care facilities finish their vaccination efforts.
To a lesser extent, Bullough said, Summit County also received more doses because it is being reimbursed for vaccinating residents of other counties.
County officials have said they anticipate it will be mid-February before they finish vaccinating those in the highest priority groups, including teachers and first responders, and are able to devote more resources to county residents 70 and older.
They anticipate the state will open vaccine eligibility to Utahns 65 and older in the coming weeks.
Both Bullough and Henderson indicated the lack of vaccine was due to the pace of manufacturing, rather than slow distribution or other causes.
Bullough said a shortage of some raw materials could be contributing to the manufacturing pace.
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Utah’s legislative general session is set to end on Friday, and if history is any indicator, there will be a flurry of floor amendments and last-minute changes for county officials to monitor.