SALT LAKE CITY — Getting virtual face-to-face time with President Joe Biden on Tuesday, Governor Spencer Cox promoted Utah's vaccination successes and made a request of the federal government.
The governor appeared with five of his colleagues in sharing what they're doing to get people vaccinated in a meeting that was streamed online by the White House.
"It's very important to be flexible and adaptable. What was working a month ago isn't necessarily going to work today," said Cox.
Biden asked the governor what he has been doing to get vaccine hesitant to get the shot.
"We often talk about the vaccine hesitant population as one big group, but it's really much more than that," Cox replied. "We've moved from what I call the 'Vaccine Ecstatic' and the 'Vaccine Excited' phase, and we're now in the 'Vaccine Busy' or the 'Vaccine Curious' phase. These aren't people who refuse to get it, they just haven't gotten around to it, and I think we have to approach all of these groups a little differently."
Cox said Utah is focusing on showing how vaccines can get people back to "normal." But he called for the federal government to help with that.
"That's one area where we could use some from help from the White House and others, and that is modeling what a fully vaccinated person can do," Cox told the president. "I like to say, we have fully vaccinated people, we should start acting like it. And that's a big motivation to get the un-vaccinated to want to get vaccinated."
Biden agreed that the U.S. government could be doing a better job of showing citizens the benefits of being vaccinated.
"I think you're right, it would increase the prospects of the desire to get vaccinated," said the president.
During his time in the meeting, the governor showcased the state's ground campaign that relies on family doctors, religious and community leaders to get vaccines into the arms of those currently on the fence.
"We're finding that those trusted voices are helping us with that next phase of people who are a little unsure or just didn't have enough time to get around to it. We're taking out all of the excuses to not get a vaccine," Cox said.
Meanwhile, Utah is moving quickly to plan for the vaccination of children ages 12-15. Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson, who is overseeing the state's vaccine efforts, said they could be ready by the end of this week to start inoculating children once the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention gave the go-ahead.
"We have a lot of kids this can apply to. Honestly, we’re ready to go. We’ve been expecting this," she told FOX 13.
She said plans were made to offer the vaccine to children through pediatricians in the state. Parents must still give consent for children to be vaccinated, but Lt. Gov. Henderson said she believed it will make help in combating COVID-19 in the state.
"It absolutely will make a difference. Especially as we’re starting to see the variants that are having a harder effect on young people," she said.
Utah's Department of Health estimates as many as 215,000 children could be offered the Pfizer vaccine once the CDC approves it.
As much as a third of the state is under the age of 18. It is one of the reasons Utah tends to rank so low nationally on vaccine efforts. Because we are the youngest state in the country, a large portion of the population is simply vaccine ineligible. Gov. Cox took issue with the rankings in his meeting with Biden.
"Mr. President, we're really good at having kids here!"
"Good point," replied the president.