UTAH (ABC4) – Utah Governor Spencer Cox was joined by state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn on February 25 to update Utahns on the latest information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The good news? Over 70% of Utahns over 70 have been vaccinated; and in the first week of eligibility, 29% of Utahns aged 65-59 have been vaccinated. The news is so encouraging, the governor says, that he is expanding eligibility to many more Utahns.

Effective immediately, Utahns 16+ with certain comorbidities (found at the bottom of this story) are eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. Governor Cox made sure to mention, however, that those 16 and 17 are only approved to receive the Pfizer vaccine per CDC guidelines. Therefore, it’s important for young adults in that group to make an appointment at a Pfizer location. Resources to find those locations can be found at the bottom of this article.

Gov. Cox adds that some pharmacies may not have the new eligibility system set up yet, so it’s important to double-check with the locations prior to registering.

In regards to verifying the comorbidities of those now eligible, Cox says the state will be using the honor system.

Cox says the state has chosen to embrace “speed over accuracy” in the context of those claiming an eligible comorbidity. However, he implores, “please don’t jump ahead in line.” Specifically, calling on the hearts of Utahns to not falsely claim a comorbidity because it could very well cost someone their life if doses run out before the newly eligible are fully vaccinated.

Governor Cox followed up that update with what he called equally significant news. Eligible Utahns no longer need to wait for appointments in their home county, that is to say, Utahns can get vaccinated wherever they choose in the state.

However, he warns, it’s important to know that the second dose must be conducted at the same location as the first dose. Therefore, for example, if you chose to travel an hour or two for your first dose of the vaccine you’ll need to make the same trip a few weeks later.

As a point of clarification, Governor Cox explained that a vaccine appointment is considered a dose.

Therefore, if you are someone that has scheduled an appointment but can no longer make it, you are asked to officially cancel the appointment so it can be replaced by someone that needs that timeslot.

This is especially important because, as the governor says, if you don’t show up to your appointment and haven’t canceled it you’re “missing a dose and that is a dose that could potentially go to waste.”

As the Utah governor began wrapping up his statement, he reminded residents about doses available through Nomi Health. Currently, he says, there are 5,000 appointments, or doses, available for residents.

View the list of resources at the bottom of the story for how to register for a Nomi Health appointment.

All in all, Governor Cox says the state has “decided to embrace the chaos” in an effort to get as many Utahns vaccinated as soon as possible.

As it stands, 660,000 vaccine doses have been administered, with 96,000 over the last week. That number is down slightly from the previous week, as the governor says, due to the storms in the midwest and the south slowing the delivery. However, those doses have arrived and the state is back on schedule.

The governor says he expects FDA approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine “likely by Saturday.” This approval is said to potentially speed up the efforts of vaccinations due to only a single dose being administered.

State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn says the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is “100% effective against hospitalization and death” and doesn’t need to be stored at the colder temperatures as other vaccines.

Dr. Dunn reflected on the recent progress, telling Utahns that “we are headed in the right direction” and that “we need to continue doing what we know works.”

Governor Cox wrapped up his update by offering hope to Utahns. “There is an end in sight,” he said, it’s “important not to give up right now.”

Cox says the hope is that by the beginning of May every Utahn who wants a vaccine, about 70-75% they estimate, should be able to get one. He says he could be wrong, and if he is the state will adjust to the evolving circumstances, but he feels he “can say that with a pretty high degree of confidence right now.”


People 16 years or older with any of the following medical conditions are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine

(Source: Coronavirus.utah.gov)

  • Asplenia including splenectomy or a spleen dysfunction
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher (this is also called Class III or severe obesity)
  • Chronic heart disease (not hypertension) including chronic heart failure, ischaemic heart disease, and severe valve or congenital heart disease
  • Chronic liver disease including chronic hepatitis B or C, alcohol-related liver disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, or primary sclerosing cholangitis or hemochromatosis
  • Cancer diagnosed within the last 5 years that began in the blood, bone marrow, or cells in the immune system. This type of cancer is called hematologic cancer (such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma). 
  • Cancer diagnosed within the last 1 year that didn’t begin in the blood or bone marrow. This type of cancer is called non-hematologic cancer (excluding basal and squamous cell cancer diagnoses).
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood, bone marrow, or organ transplant; HIV; long-term use of corticosteroids; or other medicines that weaken the immune system
  • Neurologic conditions that impair respiratory function, including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, epilepsy, motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Parkinson’s disease, progressive cerebellar disease, and quadriplegia or hemiplegia 
  • Receiving dialysis for severe kidney disease
  • Receiving immunosuppression therapy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Severe chronic respiratory disease (other than asthma) including severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fibrosing lung disease, bronchiectasis, or cystic fibrosis
  • Solid organ transplant recipient
  • Stage 4 or stage 5 chronic kidney disease
  • Stroke and dementia (Alzheimer’s, vascular, or frontotemporal)
  • Uncontrolled diabetes with an A1c of 9% or higher