SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has reached the point where supply is now starting to exceed demand for the COVID-19 vaccine. So Governor Spencer Cox is trying a new strategy.
"We are shifting our approach now to bring the vaccine directly to you," he said at his weekly news conference on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The people who really wanted the vaccine are believed to have largely gotten it at mass vaccine clinics across the state. More than two million doses have been given out so far (a combination of first and second shots). As of Thursday, more than 900,000 Utahns are considered "fully vaccinated."
But the state has yet to reach "herd immunity" through vaccination, where physical distancing and other health restrictions can be lifted.
So the governor is now offering mobile and "pop-up" clinics across the state. On Thursday, he offered the state's resources — for free — to churches, community groups, businesses and others who are willing to host a vaccine clinic to make it easier for some Utahns to get a jab.
"We will come to you and at no cost to your organization," Gov. Cox said. "Right now, we have plenty of doses to support this initiative."
The governor said he believes plenty of Utahns still want the COVID-19 vaccine, but have been unable to find time to get it.
"Some people we know it’s on their mind, they’re busy," he said. "We know people have schedules, it’s tough with your work schedules."
The state and local health departments have already been using mobile clinics to reach different communities, particularly ethnic and racial minority groups. Last month, FOX 13 was at a special clinic hosted by the Utah Muslim Civic League.
While it may take a little longer to get people fully immunized, some believe it will yield better results. Emilio Manuel Camu, the president of OCA Asian Pacific Islander Advocates' Utah chapter, said they have already found success with their community-based clinics.
"People have told us they really would not have gotten vaccinated if not for our community clinics hosted where they feel comfortable," he told FOX 13, adding: "It’s not necessarily hesitancy, it’s more of the access to it. I think that’s why community clinics are going to be really successful."
Mass vaccine sites will remain open to help anyone. On Thursday, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson announced 20,000 new appointments at the Maverik Center and Mountain America Expo Center sites. On Monday, the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy will accept walk-ins from 10am-2pm.
Currently, Utah is in a plateau with COVID-19 cases. State epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said they are starting to see some outbreaks in schools and tourism-heavy areas of Utah.
"Really what’s preventing a large surge statewide is vaccination. These outbreaks are being driven by variants and populations that can’t get vaccinated," she said, referencing an outbreak at a middle school in the Jordan School District.
Gov. Cox said Utah would be in the midst of another major surge in COVID-19 cases if it weren't for the people who have already been vaccinated. Of those fully vaccinated, he urged Utahns to go out and start enjoying some of the new freedoms that come with it.
"We’re still in the middle of a pandemic and it’s more important now than ever to get vaccinated if you’re eligible," she said. "The more people that are vaccinated, the less COVID spread we’ll have, and if there’s less virus spreading around, there’s less opportunity for it to mutate and variants to take hold in Utah."