SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – COVID-19 vaccines are now being distributed to all 50 states. Four Intermountain Healthcare hospitals are the first to receive Utah’s shipments.

As soon as shipments arrive on Monday and Tuesday, Intermountain says it will initiate a tiered-distribution process to begin vaccinations for frontline caregivers.

The first Utah hospitals expecting shipments on Monday and Tuesday are:

  • Intermountain Medical Center in Murray
  • LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City
  • Dixie Regional Hospital in St. George
  • Utah Valley Hospital in Provo

University of Utah Hospital is also among the first group to receive the vaccine.

Earlier this month, physicians from Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health discussed their plans and released details on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution for frontline caregivers.

Physicians say they are prepared with the appropriate space and -80 degree freezers needed to store the delicate vaccine doses.

In Utah, like many other states, vaccines will first go to caregivers who are at most risk and who are directly in contact with COVID-19 patients. Also on the list to receive the vaccine first will be those within hospital housekeeping and anesthesiologists who are involved in risky procedures.

The Utah Department of Health placed the first order for COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 4. Officials told ABC4 that the order had been on the schedule for some time. The option to order the vaccine was first made available on Dec. 4.

A week later, Governor Gary Herbert announced teachers K-12 are essential workers and will be among the first to get the COVID-19 vaccination with medical professionals.

Some teachers told ABC4 that they’re calling it an unexpected Christmas gift that hopefully will get schools back to in-person learning.

“I don’t think that it’s sunk in yet. We keep hearing a vaccine is on the horizon, we are going to get a vaccine soon we need to stay safe until we get a vaccine, and now to hear that it’s that close – that’s huge,” says Amy Cassil who teaches at Centennial Junior High.

The U of U and Intermountain Healthcare doctors told ABC4 that vaccinating people is an important part in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It won’t be until you know, 60 to 70 to 80 percent of the population is vaccinated and protected that we will begin to think of letting our guard down,” says Mark Supiano, a U of U Health geriatrician.

“With a highly effective vaccine, if we could get 70 to 90% of the population vaccinated, we may be able to see a reduction in terms of the spread of the disease,” says Dr. Tamara Sheffield, a medical director, and community health and prevention doctor at Intermountain Healthcare.

Supiano and Sheffield say once there’s a wide-spread vaccination, it will help reduce the virus’ transmission in Utah communities, but they believe it will take some time before life goes back to a new normal.

Intermountain physicians will hold a press briefing on Monday at 10:30 a.m. to provide an update on vaccine arrival, prioritization for vaccination, roll-out plans, safety updates, and an update on the impact of COVID-19 on hospital volumes and capacity.

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