SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Utah Department of Health has announced changes to the state’s risk assessment process used to prioritize access to COVID-19 medical treatments.

These changes have been issued in response to very low, limited supplies of these treatments to ensure that classifications in the risk assessment comply with federal law and to new guidance issued by the National Institutes of Health.

WIth Utah enacting a new prioritization process, some people will automatically qualify for treatment if they meet emergency use authorization criteria such as people with severe immunocompromising conditions and unvaccinated individuals ages 75 and older.

The risk score calculator will then be used to prioritize access to treatment for people who do not automatically qualify.

Last week, at the request of UDOH, the Scarce Resources Subcommittee of the Crisis Standards of Care Workgroup analyzed updated data from Intermountain Healthcare. 

The analysis contained information regarding 188,456 Utahns aged 18 and older with COVID-19, of which 6,579 were hospitalized.

Based on this analysis and recommendations, UDOH has adopted the following updates to the risk assessment process:

  • Remove race and ethnicity from the risk score calculator. Instead of using race and ethnicity as a factor in determining treatment eligibility, UDOH will work with communities of color to improve access to treatments by placing medications in locations easily accessed by these populations while working to connect members of these communities with available treatments. 
  • Remove gender from the calculator. As with the protected class of race, providing additional points based on gender raises legal concerns. Additionally, as the numbers of patients with COVID-19 in Utah has grown, the hospitalization risk associated with male gender, previously included in the risk score calculator, has steadily declined.
  • Remove automatic prioritization for some immunocompromised and pregnant individuals. The risk score calculator will be modified to include certain lower-risk immunocompromised and unvaccinated pregnant individuals in the risk score calculator. Previously, all immunocompromised and pregnant individuals received automatic prioritization without using the risk score calculator. New population-level data allows more stratification of risk for these groups. Now only the highest risk immunocompromising conditions will be prioritized without using the risk score calculator.
  • Add a priority group of unvaccinated people 75 and older to those who receive prioritization without using the risk score calculator. This aligns with current Tier 1 eligibility criteria from the National Institutes of Health and reflects the significantly increased risk of hospitalization associated with advanced age and unvaccinated status above all other factors.
  • Apply the same prioritization methodology used for the general population to long-term care facility residents, incarcerated people, and other residents of congregate settings. Previously, residents of long-term care facilities and other congregate settings were prioritized for treatment and post-exposure prophylaxis without use of the risk score calculator. Previous treatment options for post-exposure prevention no longer work against the Omicron variant.