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One last hurdle in the Utah COVID vaccine distribution plan

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna Inc. says it will ask U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

EDITORIAL NOTE: This story is part of our continuing series, ‘The Vaccines: Hope on the Horizon.’ Each day, KSL will break down a different aspect of COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution. Listen to Utah’s Morning News at 7:45 a.m. and to Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News at 4:45 p.m. daily for the latest. 

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah health officials say they’ve already purchased the first of their doses of a COVID-19 vaccine — and they know who’ll be first in line when they’re ready to distribute it. But at least one hurdle still stands in the way: FDA approval. 

Encouraging results so far

Analysts so far find encouragement in the vaccine trials, which suggest anywhere between 90 and 95% efficacy for the versions in development.

But one key voice hasn’t yet weighed in: The Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. According to Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko, that group meets with the Food and Drug Administration, which grants approval to vaccines, this week. 

“They’ll review their data, provide any input that they have, and they will ultimately make a recommendation to the FDA,” Hudachko told KSL NewsRadio. 

Technically, that means the Utah vaccine plan and that of every other state in the nation is a bit premature, as they require FDA approval before they can spring into action. If the FDA decides for any reason the vaccine doesn’t meet safety standards, all of those plans become moot. 

“If the FDA doesn’t approve a vaccine, it can’t be distributed anywhere in the country,” Hudachko added.  

The Utah COVID vaccine plan

While officials wait for that final approval, they also continue to move forward with the Utah COVID vaccine plan. Much work needs to be done to get ready before the vaccine becomes available. 

Hudachko believes the main obstacle still facing health officials is how the public feels about the vaccine, though he says most Utahns feel it will be safe, according to health department data. 

“Typically, between 71 and 72% of the population has indicated that they’re either somewhat likely or very likely to receive the vaccine once it comes out,” he said. 

Frontline workers, such as doctors and nurses at hospitals across the state, would receive the vaccine first in Utah, Hudachko said. But one group is currently unaccounted for in the Utah vaccine plan: children. Doctors say they don’t yet have as much study data on the effect of the vaccine on children as they do on adults. 

Researchers continue to seek volunteers for vaccine studies in younger age groups.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
  • Obtain a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

Why is KSL NewsRadio covering this?

We have a lot of questions about the vaccines currently being tested for COVID-19, and we know you do, too. We wanted to provide answers to those questions.

Where did the idea come from?

It came from you! Listeners like you frequently email, text or call us with story ideas.

How did KSL report the story?

We went directly to the source of information wherever possible to obtain the facts about the vaccines currently in development. In this case, that included the Utah health leaders who are responsible for making critical vaccine storage and distribution decisions.

I have an idea for a future in-depth report. How do I tell you about it?

We would love to hear your ideas. You can email our team at radionews@ksl.com. If you are hoping to reach a specific member of our team, you can also contact them directly through our bios, here.