COVID-19 vaccine Q&A: who gets it first in Utah and why?

Coronavirus Updates

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A COVID-19 vaccine could make its way to Utah by mid-December. This is if the FDA uses emergency approval for Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine that showed it was more than 90% effective.

Pfizer’s plan and the distribution plan is in three phases.

“It’s different from any previous vaccine that’s been used in humans,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Sankar Swaminathan

Dr. Swaminathan works for the University of Utah Health.

With the potential of a COVID, vaccine comes a lot of questions, which doctors do have, but they also gave ABC4 a bunch of answers.

“We will not be billing people for the cost of the vaccine, the government has taken care of that,” said Dr. Tamar Sheffield.

Sheffield is the medical director for community health and prevention at Intermountain Healthcare.

The vaccine is free for everyone and everyone will eventually get access to it. But first dibs goes to those fighting on the frontlines of COVID. The CDC’s plan said those with high risks and older age will be tested second and lastly the general public.  

Some hospitals in Utah have been challenged with holding the vaccine for other healthcare centers and pharmacies.

One thousand vaccines come in each batch. Also each vaccine, due to its nature, can only last a few days.

“I think we should realize what a breakthrough this is,” said Swaminathan. If it pans out is has the likelihood of protecting higher risk people and has the potential to reduce hospitalizations and death.”

Deaths continue to rise across Utahthe country, and the world from COVID.

Because of that spike, Pfizer’s potential vaccine only took months to create and test.

“I think the fact that it has gone at such a rapid speed is a reflection of how much work has been put into this and that’s unprecedented,” said Swaminathan.

The vaccine would require two doses 21 days apart and be kept at freezing temperatures. The second shot is a booster.

“Messenger RNA vaccines currently require storage at -80° F or below which does pose a significant logistical hurdle,” said Swaminathan.

The hurdles Swaminathan is talking about include a lack of data. Pfizer is in its last phase of testing, but doctors said they are weary whether or not the vaccine prevents severe cases, the type that causes hospitalizations and deaths.

“We want to make sure we can have the confidence then share a confidence with those we are providing the vaccine too,” said Sheffield.

The RNA vaccine was studied and tested by Pfizer and BioNTech works by scientists taking part in the virus’s genetic code and injecting it into the body’s cells. The vaccine tells the cells to produce a coronavirus spike protein. That ultimately lets the body hopefully build immunity and destroy the infected cells.

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