‘We will have an increase in availability’: Local COVID-19 vaccine supply gets a boost

Two of the COVID-19 vaccines are seen at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, Utah, on Dec. 16, 2020. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare

ST. GEORGE — As demand locally for COVID-19 vaccinations continues to exceed the number of doses available, the local health department is getting a boost from both the state and the federal government that will result in additional reservation slots on Monday.

A woman named Elizabeth 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

During his weekly COVID-19 briefing at the State Capitol Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox said that the Biden Administration has increased Utah’s allotment of vaccines by 16% starting next week.

The result will be a larger vaccine supply for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, which has seen its available reservation slots for shots fill up almost as soon as they go online since eligibility was opened up for everyone 70 and over two weeks ago.

“We will have an increase in availability for the next registration openings on Feb. 1,” David Heaton, spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said. 

Until now, all of the state’s local health departments have had to divide 33,000 doses. Next week, that supply will go up to 40,000 and is now expected to go up each week from here on.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who has just finished a fact-finding mission to all 13 local health departments in the state, including Southwest Utah, said the problem of a low supply (causing hard-to-get vaccine slots) is universal from southern to northern Utah.

“This is a problem we’re hearing across the board. We just have more demand than supply,” Henderson said. We encourage everyone to stay patient. We have a lot more people who want the vaccine than the vaccine we have but that will change soon.”

In addition, Cox announced the state is working with local health departments to create a system to help those ages 70 and over who have found themselves out of luck by the time they go online or call in to get a slot. 

A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine seen in late-December 2020. | Photo courtesy of Intermountain Healthcare, St. George News

“We are helping local health departments create a procedure to reach out to those having trouble getting a slot,” Cox said. “We’re very serious about this problem.”

It’s unclear what form that system will take, whether it is a waiting list or a different kind of reservation system.

Heaton indicated that the local health department is working on the latter.

“We are in the process of making registration easier,” he said.

The problem is not vaccine sitting on the shelf, as Cox’s ordered earlier in the month all vaccine supply to be used within a week of when it is received. 

“In January, we had a decision to make whether to overload the system or underload,” Cox said. “We knew that would be frustrating but that’s a better problem to have.”

Cox also dispelled any rumors that there are vaccine doses that have been wasted or discarded in Utah, as has been documented in other states.

“We have done an audit of wasted doses, and we discovered there were 95 doses that were lost. Most were because the vial was broken in transit,” Cox said. “That is out of 395,000.”

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Those who can currently get first dose of the vaccine: Everyone ages 70 and over; K-12 teachers and staff; those that work in nonhospital health care facilities (those in clinics, pharmacies, dentists or other medical offices); and first responders, including law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs.
  • Those who can receive the second dose: Those who received their first injection on or before Jan. 4.
  • Must register in advance online for an appointment time. Walk-ins will not be accepted.
  • Must have a personal ID, employment ID (if necessary) and wear a short-sleeve shirt at appointment.
  • Must get the vaccine in the county you reside in. Proof of residency is required. Part-time residents can get vaccinated with proof of residency.
  • Vaccines are free of charge.
  • Those without email addresses or unable to make reservations online can get help at a specialized hotline at 435-986-2549.

COVID-19 information resources

St. George News has made every effort to ensure the information in this story is accurate at the time it was written. However, as the situation and science surrounding the coronavirus continues to evolve, it’s possible that some data has changed.

Check the resources below for up-to-date information and resources.

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

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