SALT LAKE CITY — Hospitals will temporarily not be be given initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine even if they have not finished inoculating all of their employees, Utah's Department of Health confirmed to FOX 13.
Instead, under Governor Spencer Cox's orders to speed up vaccination efforts, local health departments and long-term care facilities will get the doses for emergency responders and vulnerable adults.
"As we increase the number of Utah residents who are currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine we need to ensure we are getting doses to providers who can administer the largest quantities," state health department spokesman Tom Hudachko told FOX 13. "This means for the next several weeks local health departments and pharmacy partners that are immunizing long-term care facility staff and residents will receive all of the doses Utah is able to order each week."
Hospitals have spent the last month vaccinating their health care workers, with a prioritization on those who work directly with COVID-19 patients. But the move means some hospital workers (who are lower on the priority scale) will now have to wait to be vaccinated.
Intermountain Healthcare said the move by UDOH would not halt their second-dose vaccination efforts, which are already under way. About 30,000 health care workers have already received that initial dose.
But Intermountain anticipated it will not receive any more initial doses until all the second-dose employees are wrapped up. It did not anticipate the state's shift in approach creating any problems.
"The system seems to be working well," Intermountain spokesman Jess Gomez told FOX 13. "We’re getting those vaccinations out pretty rapidly."
The state's largest health care system estimated it means 10,000 remaining employees will have to wait a few weeks before they can resume first doses.
The state began offering the COVID-19 vaccine to K-12 teachers and staffers this week. Most local school districts have opted to start with their oldest educators first. Next week, adults over the age of 70 will be offered it as the state begins prioritizing based on age and risk. Gov. Cox eliminated "essential workers" from the priority list. However, the new governor has also pushed for a ramp up of vaccination efforts.