SALT LAKE CITY — Starting Wednesday, everyone over the age of 16 is eligible to the COVID-19 vaccine in Utah and medical experts say it's important to not wait to schedule an appointment.
The new guidelines add about a million Utahn's to the eligibility pool for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There will be enough vaccine for everyone who wants to get vaccinated. There’s not immediately enough vaccine for everybody,” Tom Hudachko, Utah Department of Health spokesperson, said.
People are asked to get their first and second dose, if they are receiving a two-dose series, at the same location. People getting their second dose at a different location is creating frustration for providers, Hudachko said.
“That creates some difficulty when it comes to managing our inventory. These providers get doses every week that are first doses and then two to three weeks later they get the same amount of those second doses,” he said.
It is important people get vaccinated quickly, Dr. Tamara Sheffield said. Dr. Sheffield is the Medical Director of Community Health and Prevention for Intermountain Healthcare.
“It is really key to get everyone vaccinated all at once and to have everybody immune so that we are not having individuals harboring those viruses and getting these variants to be coming up,” she said.
It is becoming a race between the new COVID-19 variants and the vaccine, Dr. Emily Spivak, University of Utah Health Infectious Disease Physician, said.
“There is also an increasing number of these variants strains in Utah specifically but nationally as well that we think are more infectious or more contagious or transmissible and so to slow the rise in those variants and the potential for another surge, or another increase in cases that could sort of take us back from all this progress we made,” she said, “in order to slow and decrease the likelihood of that happening everyone needs to go out and get vaccinated now.”
The three biggest concerns during the process for Dr. Sheffield is that the federal government won’t get the vaccine to Utah quick enough, young people won’t rush to get vaccinated and people will stop with protective measures too soon, she said.
“If we can get the vaccine, if we can get it into people’s arms because they are coming to us and we stay protected in the meantime, we can control this,” she said.
In order to reach herd immunity, about 70 to 90 percent of the population needs to be protected from the virus. This will likely take several months, doctors say. It is important to not delay getting the shot so we can reach herd immunity quickly and get the virus under control, Dr. Sheffield said.
“If people don’t wait and they get vaccinated together than we may be able to get to that point where we don’t have the virus circulating and we are protected enough that we are not going to be passing it to each other,” she said.
For more information on COVID-19 Vaccines in Utah, click here.