ST. GEORGE, Utah — In an interview with FOX 13 ahead of his inauguration ceremony, incoming Utah Governor Spencer Cox said the state needs to do more to rapidly vaccinate people against COVID-19.
The governor-elect, who takes the oath of office on Monday, said he intends to push for expanded vaccinations across the state. He said Utah's Department of Health is already moving in that direction, with more people being vaccinated every day through hospitals and local health departments.
"Where I’ve been most critical is the speed of distribution," Gov.-elect Cox told FOX 13. "Every shot that’s sitting on a shelf is a life that’s not being protected."
The governor-elect pushed for getting rid of "essential workers" in the state's vaccine distribution plan. Instead, the focus is on age and risk. Once health care workers are vaccinated (which is under way in hospitals and clinics statewide), K-12 teachers and school staffers will be offered the vaccine.
After that, Phase 2 will begin where those over the age of 75 will be first in line (expected to be in mid-February). From there, it will branch out to those with underlying medical conditions and younger ages. Governor Gary Herbert told FOX 13 last month that he expects the general public to be offered the vaccine by April, with health restrictions possibly being lifted by early summer.
Gov.-elect Cox told FOX 13 he wants to see vaccine timelines sped up.
"In this area I’m going to be a little too hands on and I’m definitely going to be in people’s business to make sure we’re getting these vaccines out as quickly as possible," he said.
Of course, it is based on dosage availability. The federal government has been criticized for a slow rollout of the vaccine, most recently by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.
Gov.-elect Cox shared some of that criticism, saying they have not seen good coordination at a federal level.
"That's been a problem for, how long has this pandemic been here?" he said. "It's deeply problematic and we all recognize it as I talk to my fellow governors as this plan was rolling out, it kept changing. The dosage amounts kept changing, the distribution plans kept changing. I'm a big believer in local control and local control is very important, but pandemics are very unique."
Gov.-elect Cox praised state and local health workers.
"We're doing a very good job, the professionals here in Utah," he said. "But there's more we could do."
Once he takes office, Gov.-elect Cox told FOX 13 he will keep the existing health restrictions in place, including a statewide mask mandate.