New lieutenant governor visits Cedar City health department as COVID-19 vaccinations continue

CEDAR CITY — Ever since COVID-19 vaccinations recently became available, select groups of Iron County residents have been steadily coming to the health department to receive their first doses.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and Southwest Utah Public Health Department director Dr. David Blodgett speak to reporters regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 12, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Recently inaugurated Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson visited the Southwest Utah Public Health Department’s Cedar City office Tuesday morning, the first of more than a dozen such stops she’s planning to make throughout the state.

“Last week, Gov. Cox asked me to visit all 13 health departments in the state of Utah to check out the operations of vaccine distribution and administration and make sure that the state was providing our local health departments with the resources that they need to be able to accomplish this vaccine rollout,” Henderson said after briefly touring the building.

Inside, several people were lined up and getting ready to roll up their sleeves to receive the first of two shots containing the Moderna vaccine designed to boost immunity to COVID-19.

Dr. David Blodgett, director and health officer of SUPHD, said health care workers and emergency responders were the first prioritized group to receive the vaccinations. 

“We have every dose we have available scheduled this week, so that’s good,” Blodgett said. “We’re anticipating every dose we have sitting in our freezer right now being gone by Thursday or so. We’ll do it again next week. We’ll keep running these clinics as long as we have vaccine.”

Blodgett said K-12 school teachers and staff members are the main category being taken care of this week.

“Next week, we’ll start into those 70 and older, and they’re very anxious to get vaccinated,” Blodgett added.  

Those interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccinations must register for an appointment to receive the shots, which are given in two doses, one month apart. To sign up, contact the health department in your county or area. Click here for more information, including a statewide list of health department phone numbers.

Local woman receives COVID-19 vaccination shot from a nurse at the Southwest Utah Public Health Department offices in Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 12, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

According to health department officials, those who belong to a particular priority group may continue to sign up anytime thereafter for an available shot, even if it’s past their window of time when they had priority.

Blodgett said patients who reside in care centers are being taken care of separately.

“They have a contract with pharmacies in the area that are vaccinating them,” he said. “So we’ll be dealing with those (70 and older) that are not in care centers. We’ll have resources available to help them get signed up if they need it. We’ll have them sign up for a slot and come in and get vaccinated as fast as we can.”

Henderson, who previously was sick with COVID-19 last year, said she has not received the vaccine yet but plans to do so when it’s her turn.

“The CDC recommendation is that as long as you haven’t had a COVID-19 positive test within the last 90 days, then you need to go ahead and get the vaccine,” she said. “It’s what my doctor has recommended. But of course, I’m not eligible for the vaccine yet, and so I’ll wait my turn. But once that is open to me, I will take the recommendation of my physician.”

Henderson added that she felt “somewhat relieved” that she had already contracted COVID-19.

“I don’t feel as vulnerable as some of the other people out there that haven’t had it yet,” she said. 

David Heaton, the health department’s public information officer, said he’s also planning to wait later to receive his own vaccination.

“I am just on the tail end of recovering from COVID-19, so I’m one of the folks that has been recommended that, as a courtesy, we wait at least 90 days after we have COVID-19 to get our vaccine so that other folks get that immunity,” he said.

Southwest Utah Public Health Department offices in Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 12, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Blodgett noted that community response to the vaccine has been mostly positive.

“People have been very grateful. They’re excited to get it. They’re appreciative of the opportunity to have it,” he said. “We’re excited for getting into that over-70 crowd so that we can get those that are most vulnerable vaccinated. That’s really the goal we’ve been heading towards all this time and really that key moment, I think, in our response to this pandemic.” 

Adverse reactions to the vaccine are extremely rare, Heaton said.

“There are the rare anaphylaxis shock reactions that a few people have had to this vaccine,” he said. “And that’s pretty typical of any vaccine. You have between one in a million to five in a million people who have some kind of allergic reaction to a component of the vaccine.”

Heaton said that there are other concerns not necessarily related specifically to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“If someone really was against vaccines to begin with, there’s really not much we can do to convince them,” he said, but added, “Other people who don’t have a problem with a vaccine have been concerned about a new vaccine, but despite the rapid method that was used to be developed, it’s shown to be safe and very effective.” 

Blodgett agreed, saying: 

This is an extremely safe vaccine. It’s been well studied. It’s really been a remarkable process to track, as the drug companies have been able to do all that’s necessary to ensure that the vaccine is safe to bring it rapidly to market. I’m very confident in this vaccine and what it will do to help those that are most vulnerable, and to all of us as we look to get back to normal, but also look to not get sick from this.

Vaccinations also make sense from an economic standpoint, he added.

“Vaccination is always the most cost effective innovation intervention you can do,” Blodgett said. “You know, it costs us $20 to vaccinate somebody, but it costs you $100,000 (to stay) in the hospital. There is nothing better you can do for yourself, for the community, for all of us involved, than to get the vaccine when it’s open to you and when it’s your turn.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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