First-come, first-serve: Vaccine distribution for older Utahns begins Jan. 18

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(ABC4 News) — Vaccine distribution throughout Utah has gone slower than originally planned. The phased distribution system has left many residents wondering when high-risk Utahns 70 and older can receive their vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, the risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, the older the adult the higher the risk.

Since the coronavirus pandemic first started in March of 2020, people at increased risk and those who live or visit with them have been advised to take serious health precautions in efforts to protect those they love from contracting COVID-19.

The CDC recommends older adults, and everyone, do the following to limit the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others and stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from others who don’t live with you.
  • Avoid crowds. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.

Because of their increased risk, the pandemic has hit older Americans harder. Social distancing efforts have left many feeling lonely. The announcement of two new COVID-19 vaccines and the opportunity to received one has restored the hope of many 70 and older.

On January 8, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox addressed the state about the ongoing coronavirus vaccine rollout during his first press conference as governor. He said he is looking forward to a “bright and happy new year” with vaccine distribution in place. 

During the briefing, Gov. Cox announced an executive order addressing statewide vaccination distribution. The order describes vaccine eligibility and vaccine provider requirements, including not administering the vaccine to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days, administering each COVID-19 vaccine within seven days of receiving the vaccine; and reporting data each day by 6:59 a.m.

The order says vaccine distribution for Utahns age 70 and older will begin Monday, January 18.

Gov. Cox ordered all vaccine distribution to go through Utah’s local health departments, not hospital systems.

“Vaccine distribution will be managed by local health departments that have the ability to vaccinate at a minimum of 50,000 people per week,” Gov. Cox shares. “It’s a time to be vigilant and hopeful.”

According to the Utah Department of Health, Utah seniors who want to get vaccinated should contact their local health department for distribution information with each health department making its own vaccine registration and distribution calls.

According to the Salt Lake County Health Department, Utahns 70 and older under the stat’s latest distribution plan, will be “vaccine-eligible” on January 18 and can make an appointment for January 19 through 23 starting January 13.

Nicholas Rupp, Spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department, tells ABC4 News vaccine registration will be made available online and on the phone for older Utahns who aren’t as conformable or familiar with the internet.

Rupp says information provided through the phone or online will be the same with vaccine distribution being on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Health officials say appointment availability will be based on vaccine dose availability.

“We will not schedule appointments for vaccine doses we do not have,” the Salt Lake County Health Department states.

Rupp says the exact number of doses the department will receive is unknown and likely to be irregular in the near future. He said more appointments will be made available as they get more vaccines.

Utah’s residence 70 and older living in Salt Lake County can call 385-465-SHOT (7468) or visit Salt Lake County’s COVID-19 Information page. Rupp says those who prefer calling should prepare for long wait times.

Salt Lake County says they want Utahns to know they do not currently have any vaccine doses available. All existing doses have been allocated to frontline healthcare workers.

For Utahns 70 and older living in Utah County, appointments can be scheduled starting January 13 at 6:00 p.m.

Utah County health officials say appointment availability is based on vaccine dose availability. Utah County residents can text UChealth to 888777 for text alerts or call 801-851-4357 for vaccine distribution updates and find out when more appointments become available.

The Weber-Morgan Health Department says residents 70 and older can sign up to get their vaccine now through their website. They warn due to limited vaccine supple vaccine registration may take a couple of weeks.

The Bear River Health Department, covering Box Elder, Cache, and Rich counties says vaccination for individuals 70 and older will begin the week of January 18, or sooner if vaccine becomes available.

Health officials say due to limited doses of vaccine, individuals must pre-register for clinics. Registration is not open, when it is a link will be shared.

For information on your county’s vaccine registration and distribution for those 70 and older, visit your county health department’s website.

Officials with the Davis County Health Department want to reminder county residents those 70 and older will be able to start scheduling an appointment for their COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, January 15th at the earliest.

Officials with the TriCounty Health Department covering Uintah, Duchesne and Daggett counties is currently collecting names and phone numbers to be put on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list for when vaccines are available to those 70 years old and older. Residents are asked to call 435-247-1177.

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