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Utah is getting more vaccines but can the state handle the demand?

The Davis County Health Department will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines to residents 70-years-old and above starting Tuesday. It comes following some early issues with getting people signed up. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

SALT LAKE CITY– Utah is expecting an uptick in vaccines, but residents are still having trouble signing up to receive their shot, and there’s a shortage of vaccine administrators. The KSL Investigators were curious about the state’s plan to iron out the kinks, so they sat down with Governor Spencer Cox to learn how Utah intends to improve its current vaccine rollout plan. 

The hard truth is administrating the vaccine to everyone who wants one is a mighty task that includes many moving parts. Many residents eligible for the vaccine experienced crashed websites, long lines, heavy hold times, and lack of appointments. Some Utahns received their doses seamlessly



Utah goes from 39th to fifth in distributing vaccines  

While Utah’s vaccine distribution had a bumpy start, improvements have been made, Cox said he is also expecting more hiccups as the immunity builder becomes more available. 

“The truth is we’re working to solve it, but we’ll probably never solve it completely,” said Cox. “At least for a long time.”

But when it comes to how Utah will improve access to the vaccine moving forward, Cox said he’ll provide local health departments with whatever they need–money, staffing, and/or technology. 

“I don’t care about the budget. I don’t care about the legislative session. I care about saving lives, keeping our hospitals open and driving down this awful disease that we’ve seen,” said Cox.

It seemed Cox’s initial response worked in some ways. Utah went from 39th to fourth in the nation for vaccine distribution to fifth. However, the help offered didn’t fix every problem as residents continue to face challenges obtaining the shots. 

Fixing the foundation 

Cox admitted to KSL Investigator Mike Headrick improvements need to happen to the state’s vaccine distribution. And with more vaccines coming into Utah, the problem is more apparent than ever. 

Residents 65 and older are already eligible to get the vaccine. Additionally, Utah is anticipating an increase of 114,000 doses per week starting March 1. 

“The infrastructure that’s in place now will not be able to handle all the new vaccines, potentially as soon as three weeks from now,” said Cox. 

In order to meet the demand, Cox said the state is expanding beyond local health departments when it comes to administering the vaccine. 

“We’re going to have some very high throughput sites that are doing thousands of these a day. Some of them will be parking lots where people can get into their car. Some of them will be stadiums and some of them will be movie theaters. Some of them will be testing sites that will be converted into vaccination sites,” said Cox.

Pharmacies throughout Utah have already begun taking appointments and vaccinating residents. The state has also created a website where everyday Utahns can volunteer to administer vaccines and help with the distribution process. 

As Utah continues to grapple with supply and demand issues regarding the vaccine, his goal still remains: everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine should be able to get one by May. 

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