OGDEN — More than 60% of those 70 and older in Weber and Morgan counties have gotten at least their first vaccination shot against COVID-19, according to figures from the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
And despite hiccups along the way, Lori Buttars, the health department spokeswoman, offers assurances that those who want vaccinations will get them. Most recently, cold weather delayed delivery of vaccine doses here, prompting postponement of some 700 vaccinations that were to have been administered on Thursday at the Dee Events Center on the Weber State University campus.
“I think people hopefully understand we don’t control the weather. They’ll still get their shots no matter what,” Buttars said. Those who were to have received vaccine shots on Thursday will get them on Monday instead, presuming no other travel delays connected to the extreme cold in other parts of the country.
Beyond that, efforts are afoot to launch a program within perhaps two weeks allowing for the vaccination of homebound seniors in Weber and Morgan counties. Weber Human Services will assist in the planned initiative, initially targeting around 150 people who take part in the Ogden-based nonprofit agency’s food delivery program for homebound seniors. “It’s a high priority for us,” said Kevin Eastman, executive director of the agency.
The Davis County Health Department has a vaccination program geared to seniors who can’t get out, and the department has received more than 170 requests for the service. “Until the vaccines become more available through other providers, we need to make sure this population is not overlooked and has access to this critical vaccination,” said Kristy Cottrell, the department’s senior services division director.
Gerald Ipsen of Bountiful, 88, took advantage of the service in Davis County, getting vaccinated at his home. He’s grateful for it. He’s on oxygen, has to stay close to home and hopes for the day when the COVID-19 threat recedes so he can get out more and accept visitors.
“Christmas, Thanksgiving — those are just days on a calendar,” he said, underscoring the difficulty in getting out to celebrate holidays, among other things, because of the lingering pandemic.
In fact, seniors are currently a central focus of vaccination efforts in Utah. Gov. Spencer Cox announced Thursday that, effective immediately, those aged 65 through 69 would be added to the list of people who can get vaccinated, in addition to those 70 and up, school employees and health care workers, among others. Prior to the announcement, the 65-69 age group was scheduled to have been added to the list of vaccination priority groups on March 1.
The outcry after technical snafus last month resulted in the online Weber-Morgan Health Department vaccination appointment system crashing underscores the strong interest in getting vaccinated among the elderly. Many decried the technical issues, expressing frustration at not being able to immediately sign up for an appointment, though such irritation seems to be easing.
“I’m not hearing too much grumbling about that. But people are really chomping at the bit,” Eastman said.
Buttars said Thursday that 13,123 people age 70 and up in Weber and Morgan counties have received at least their first vaccination shot, 61.7% of those in the age group in the two counties.
In all, 24,480 vaccine doses have thus far been administered through the Weber-Morgan Health Department to 18,130 people, some of them having received two doses, she said. Factoring vaccine handled through other entities as well, like hospitals and the agency aiding in vaccination of teachers, 30,244 people in the two counties have received at least their first vaccination shot, according to Utah Department of Health figures.
Looking ahead, Buttars said Weber-Morgan Health Department officials are hoping to launch a new online registration period for vaccinations for March. Vaccinations for the month of February are largely booked, though those on an online waiting list are invited to fill slots that come open.
“We’re looking at that. We’re testing the new system,” Buttars said. After the online registration system crashed in January, health department officials have been upgrading the technology, aided by state officials.