Spencer Cox used his first COVID-19 press conference as Utah’s governor on Friday to demand that local health officials increase the pace of statewide vaccination efforts.
CACHE COUNTY – The Bear River Health Department will soon be administering COVID-19 vaccinations at a more rapid pace under a new executive order issued by Gov. Spencer Cox on Friday, Jan. 8.
During his first COVID-19 press conference as governor, Cox expressed disappointment with the progress of the statewide vaccination effort, noting that less than half of the nearly 200,000 doses of vaccine that Utah has received since mid-December have been administered.
Jordan Mathis, the new director of the Bear River Health District, had voiced a similar concern on Jan. 5 in a report to members of the Logan City Council.
“The Bear River district has received 3,300 doses of the vaccine as of today and administered 2,095 vaccinations,” Mathis explained. “We have the capacity over the next few days to deliver 2,200 more vaccinations, but we only have 1,205 doses left. So we actually have a greater capability to deliver vaccine to peoples’ arms than we have supplies of the vaccine.”
Cox said that state officials are seeing similar distribution issues at all 13 of Utah’s health districts, which have the total capacity to administer up to 50,000 vaccinations a week. Utah has been receiving a weekly allocation of about 33,000 doses of two vaccines developed by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna from the federal government.
Despite that allocation shortfall, the state still has a surplus of more than 100,000 doses of vaccine and the governor is ordering the state’s health districts to fully use up those stockpiles.
“This is what the world has been waiting for,” Cox said. “This is what we will be judged by … It is unacceptable to have vaccines sitting on the shelf. Moving forward, I assure you, that there will be no vaccines sitting on the shelf.”
To facilitate the full utilization of Utah’s vaccine supplies, Cox announced some changes to the state’s immunization program.
First, he directed that Utahns who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days not be vaccinated since they are likely to already be immune to the disease.
Cox also announced that about 50,000 Utah teachers are eligible to begin receiving vaccinations on Monday, with priority being given to older and more vulnerable individuals.
On Jan. 18, vaccinations will begin for Utahns aged 70 and older. Cox added that state officials expect that immunizing that population of more than 200,000 will take a period of weeks.
Eligible Cache County residents in those categories will be able to register for vaccinations on the BRHD website starting Monday.
Finally, Cox explained that state officials plan to support Utah’s hard-hit minority communities by establishing convenient vaccination sites in their neighborhoods.
Under a separate immunization initiative, vaccines are also being administered to residents of long-term care facilities through Walgreens and CVS pharmacies under a federal contract.
Cox said that residents and staffs of about 45 percent of Utah’s 353 long-term care facilities have already been vaccinated and that process is projected to be complete by late January.