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Health departments 'surprised' by Gov. Cox April 1 vaccine announcement

Posted at 10:12 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 13:02:36-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Health departments across Utah are trying to figure out how to meet Governor Spencer Cox's goal of opening up vaccine enrollment for every single adult in the state.

They're calling Cox's late Thursday announcement an "unexpected change," and a "surprise."

The vaccine rollouts have been steady, and incremental-- working down in age, and up in health condition.
But according to what Governor Cox is now saying, that is all expected to change April 1.

"We got surprised just like everyone else, when the Governor's Office announced it," said Davis County Health Department Communications Manager Trevor Warner.

Read: Governor plans to open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adult Utah residents April 1

No, this is not an April Fools' Day joke.

Though it might seem like one, considering health departments like Davis County are neck-deep in appointments for the 50-plus population, which opened last week.

"We are working to transition our vaccine rollout to accommodate this unexpected change from an age-based distribution plan," the Salt Lake County Health Department said, in a statement sent to FOX 13.

We're completely booked with appointments in these new priority groups through the first week of April," Warner said. "We haven't seen the vaccine roll in yet like the Governor said it would."

While Warner described not yet receiving a boost in doses that would allow them to increase their appointments, Joe Dougherty with the Utah COVID-19 Response Team explained that they expect that boost to happen in the coming weeks.

"The federal government has promised, and is in the process of purchasing more vaccines," Dougherty said. "Today they announced that they are purchasing 100 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine."

Read: Medical Examiner: No certified COVID-19 vaccine-related deaths in Utah

Once Utah has enough vaccines, Dougherty explained, they can ramp up and have partners ready to vaccinate 300,000 people a week.
Right now, the state is receiving 67,000 first doses a week, he said.

With all the excitement around the April 1 date, Dougherty stressed that the timeline isn't set in stone.

Hence some key words in the announcement, like "anticipates," and "probably."

"The governor anticipates that by around the first of April, we will probably be able to make the vaccines available to everyone else in the state of Utah," Dougherty said.

It's cautious optimism, he said. Not a guarantee, but a hope that April Fools' Day could be the real deal for every adult in Utah.

Read: Utah sees high vaccination rate for seniors

"April first will be an exciting day for a lot of people, and it'll be exciting for health departments if vaccine rolls in and we're able to open up more appointments," Warner said. "But at the same time, people just need to keep in perspective that the vaccine just isn't here yet."

Warner, Dougherty, and the Salt Lake County Health Department each pointed out that those who are currently ineligible to receive the vaccine, cannot sign up for any appointments-- even if the appointments are after April 1.

"We are not currently scheduling appointments for people under 50 unless they have a qualifying medical condition," the Salt Lake County Health Department wrote.

They said that the rest of the adult population who want the vaccine will need to wait until the time slots officially open, which would likely be after April first. Warner said it'll be a battle for people to get appointments, and urged them to have patience if they can't get an appointment right away.

In addition to county health departments, there are several other places that people can get the vaccine.

Read: Here's how to register for a COVID-19 vaccination in Utah

Here is the full statement from the Salt Lake County Health Department on the April 1 timeline:

"We are working to transition our vaccine rollout to accomodate this unexpected change from an age-based distribution plan. We expect that by April 1, vaccine will be more widely available at multiple locations throughout the community, including additional retail pharmacies, private providers, and at sites catering specifically to diverse, multicultural, and underserved communities. We are not currently scheduling appointments for people under 50 unless they have a qualifying medical condition."