The elderly are next in line to get COVID-19 vaccinations, starting next week in Weber, Morgan and Davis counties.
Just because they’re eligible per state guidelines on doling out vaccines, though, doesn’t mean they’ll immediately be able to get shots. Interest in getting vaccinated among those 70 and up is strong in Weber and Morgan counties, where around 15,000 in the age group have indicated they want to get inoculated. But with only about 1,300 doses of vaccine coming to the two counties per week, simple math suggests it could take more than two months to accommodate them.
Davis County is getting around 3,000-4,000 doses per week and officials there announced Thursday that they would start accepting online appointments on Friday from those 70 and older who want to get vaccinated.
“For those asking why it can’t be done quicker, the simple response is this — the amount of vaccine we have is what moves us forward. If we only have 3,000 to 4,000 doses each week, we go through that pretty quickly,” said Trevor Warner, spokesperson for the Davis County Health Department. Davis County is home to around 25,000 people who are 70 or over, the new pool eligible for vaccinations per tweaks to the state’s vaccination guidelines announced Jan. 8 by Gov. Spencer Cox.
Fred Welty of Hooper, for one, isn’t too happy. He’s 72 and hasn’t been shy about pushing for increased efforts to vaccinate the elderly, more potentially vulnerable to COVID-19 than many others. He’s called local health officials, the Utah governor’s office and others to air his concerns. “That’s no way to win a war,” he said, lamenting the time it could take to fully distribute vaccines.
Warner acknowledges that time slots for vaccinations for the elderly will likely fill up fast in Davis County, requiring persistence.
“The reality is that these appointments will fill up very quickly and a person may have to try back week after week to get an appointment. We’re asking for everyone’s patience in this process as it will take many weeks of clinics for us to get to everyone,” he said.
Lori Buttars, spokesperson for the Weber-Morgan Health Department, described demand in Weber and Morgan counties among the elderly for vaccinations as overwhelming. Interest, the 15,000 or so who said they wanted to be vaccinated, far outweighed the immediate stock of vaccine doses. “Obviously, we were not able to accommodate everyone,” she said.
On the bright side, though, both she and Warner expect the vaccine supply to grow as time passes, enabling the department to increase the pace of inoculations. Moreover, Buttars said, “there may be other avenues for people to get vaccine, such as pharmacies, before we get through our list.”
More immediately, the Weber-Morgan Health Department is offering special help to those who say they need assistance making appointments due to physical limitation, lack of access to internet and other factors. Appointment slots, about 15% of each week's total, are being reserved for them.
Vaccinations of the broader public, meanwhile, aren’t expected to begin at least until March, maybe later.
The Weber-Morgan Health Department unveiled plans in the wake of Cox’s Jan. 8 announcement for those 70 and up to be notified to get vaccinations. Inoculations of the age group will start next Wednesday, even as vaccinations continue of other groups like non-hospital health care workers, higher up the priority list given their role in safeguarding community health.
“We feel we have made great progress in serving those populations and we are prepared to add the 70-plus population into the mix,” Buttars said. Some 1,750 appointments are scheduled for next Wednesday.
Per the Davis County plans unveiled Thursday, those 70 and over may start making appointments to get vaccinated on Friday online at go.usa.gov/xAZFD. Those without internet access and the visually impaired may schedule an appointment by calling 801-525-4900.
Vaccination clinics next week in Davis County, held at the Legacy Events Center in Farmington, are set for Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and health care officials hope to dole out 3,000 shots.
Aside from those 70 and older, Davis County officials have vaccine doses earmarked for health care workers, first responders and teachers.
The Weber-Morgan Health Department had asked the elderly to get on a list to be notified when vaccination appointments would be available. Now, with the 1,750 vaccination slots for next week filled, Buttars advises those who still want shots to check out the department website, webermorganhealth.org, on Thursdays starting at around 3 p.m. That’s when new links are to go live each week with information on available timeslots for vaccination appointments.
According to Utah Department of Health numbers released Thursday, 133,202 vaccines had been administered across the state. Whatever the case, health care officials warn that the COVID-19 pandemic is hardly over.
The rolling seven-day positive test rate — the share of positive COVID-19 diagnoses relative to the overall number of tests — measured 26% across Utah as of Thursday, according to state health department figures. That’s down from the earlier high of around 33%, said Eddie Stenehjem, an infectious diseases physician for Intermountain Healthcare.
Still, officials are trying to get the figure down to around 3%, an indicator that COVID-19 is under control. “We’re a long ways off from that,” Stenehjem said.