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Utah waits for Moderna vaccine authorization. Once it’s here, where does it go?

FILE - In this March 16, 2020, file photo, a subject receives a shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine by Moderna for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. According to results released on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, early-stage testing showed the first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems the way scientists had hoped. The vaccine is made by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Department of Health Immunization Director Rich Lakin expects the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this week. 

“There could be some things in the data that show that it shouldn’t be approved. If that’s the case, so be it. But as far as we know, everything looks good,” Lakin said. 

And Utah could get the Moderna vaccine quickly. 

“If all that goes through, then that means we can start allocating the Moderna vaccine next week,” Lakin explained. 

Lakin estimates Utah is also on track to get several doses. 

“The week of [December] 21, we have 47,600 doses that are coming to the state of Utah,” Lakin said. “The week of December 28, we would have 21,000 doses.” 

Moderna’s vaccine will then be sent to rural hospitals. 

“The Moderna vaccine comes in doses of less than 100 [per shipment],” noted Lakin. “Unlike our Pfizer vaccine…that comes in doses of less than 1,000.”

Both Pfizer and Moderna have manufactured mRNA vaccines, which teach cells how to make a protein. That eventually triggers an immune response. 

However, Pfizer’s vaccine, which is already at some Utah hospitals, has to be stored at -94 degrees. That requires special freezers. 

Lakin stated Moderna’s vaccine doesn’t need to be nearly as cold–a benefit to rural hospitals. 

“You can also put the vaccine in a regular freezer, which makes it easier also, logistics-wise, for that vaccine to be utilized across more of the rural areas,” Lakin said. 

But it’s not just rural hospitals. The Moderna vaccine could be used in other places in Utah as well. 

“We will have enough doses also that we can provide to our local health departments,” Lakin explained. “So they can start, at the end of December, vaccinating front line health workers, tribal health.” 

Related: FDA says Moderna vaccine highly effective and safe