Summit County teachers will begin to receive vaccines, residents 70 and older next week
Governor shakes up vaccine protocols in bid to get more from feds
Gov. Spencer Cox delivered a message Friday that shook up vaccine delivery around the state, announcing that efforts so far have been unacceptable and that he would push local health departments to use their doses as fast as possible in an effort to get more supply from the federal government.
Cox announced that teachers would be eligible to receive the vaccine Jan. 11 and that Utahns 70 and older — the first members of the general public outside high-priority groups like first responders — would be eligible to receive the vaccine next week.
Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough said the Health Department has scheduled vaccination dates for teachers at the drive-thru Utah Film Studios site this week and would begin scheduling appointments for older residents next week.
To register to be notified when it’s time to make an appointment to be vaccinated, go to summitcountyhealth.org/vaccine.
Bullough said he supported the governor’s efforts but that the county has been vaccinating residents faster than it is receiving supply from the state. The limiting factor locally is the amount of vaccine, he said, not the means to deliver it.
“We have the capacity right now to deliver somewhere in the ballpark of three times the vaccines (we’re receiving),” Bullough said Tuesday morning.
He said the county is receiving about 300 to 400 doses weekly and he estimated that there are at least 1,200 educators in the county.
Starting next week, Bullough said several thousand county residents 70 years and older would be added to the list of eligible recipients.
“You do the math, we’re a long ways out to meet all those populations the governor said were priorities,” Bullough said.
Census information shows about 1,500 county residents are 75 or older and 5,200 are 65 or older.
Cox indicated that he expects it to take several weeks for every educator and Utahn 70 or older to be vaccinated, but said that every person in those categories who wants a vaccine should have the opportunity to receive one by the end of February.
Cox also ordered health departments to use every vaccine they receive within a week, saying it is unacceptable for vaccine doses to sit unused.
“We expect every local health department will run out of vaccine every week,” Cox said.
Bullough said the Health Department was not stockpiling vaccine and would comply with the governor’s order.
The strategy Cox outlined is for Utah to demonstrate its ability to use more vaccine than it receives from the federal government each week to put it in line to receive more doses as they become available.
“Hopefully we will be the beneficiaries of receiving more vaccine from the federal government as we prove our ability to use it before the expiration date,” Cox said.
That’s already happening on the local level, Bullough said, with the county requesting as much vaccine as it can get. The supply is doled out based on population, and county officials have worried that won’t account for the members of the high-priority groups who work in Summit County and will receive a vaccine here but aren’t residents, offering the example of a Park City teacher who lives in Heber.
The governor made several other tweaks to the vaccine protocols, including that individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days should be dissuaded from receiving a vaccine.
Cox recommended that educators who are 65 and older and those who have underlying medical conditions should receive the vaccine before their younger, healthier colleagues. Bullough said that the Health Department left it to the three local school districts to prioritize when their employees would receive a vaccine.
He added that the department initially envisioned providing doses to school districts and vaccinating teachers at their schools but that there is such little vaccine available that educators will now be asked to come to the Utah Film Studios drive-thru site.
He also reported that residents and staff of the county’s long-term care facilities had received inoculations. The county decided to vaccinate one East Side facility after a private pharmacy chain did not deliver a vaccination plan with an adequate timeline, Bullough said, and the state has since reimbursed the county for the number of vaccines it used in that effort.
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The CDC recommends vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public settings in Summit County, a step backward precipitated by the rise in cases tied to the more-transmissible Delta variant.