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Smaller Utah Hospitals await vaccine as Moderna awaits FDA approval

Posted at 8:10 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 00:38:41-05

VERNAL, Utah — Five hospitals currently have the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Utah, with more vaccines coming to the state later this week or early next week.

READ: First COVID-19 vaccines in Utah given to hospital workers

Meanwhile, smaller, rural hospitals in the state are awaiting a different vaccine that would be more suitable.

“The state’s allocated Moderna to us,” said Greg Gardiner, chief clinical officer at Ashley Regional Hospital in Vernal. “The Pfizer (vaccine) has to be stored ... 80 degrees below zero, so the Moderna is a little more stable from that standpoint, so the rural facilities throughout the state will be getting the Moderna.”

As Moderna awaits FDA approval, which could come as early as Thursday, smaller hospitals in Utah are waiting for further news from the Utah Department of Health.

READ: Key FDA report says Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, keeping it on track for approval

“We’re scheduled to receive it the first of January,” said Gardiner. “I know University of Utah, Intermountain Healthcare, they’ve received it today (Tuesday) and yesterday, so they’re going to start their process, which is understandable, you know — those major facilities, those bigger facilities are going to start first, which needs to happen.”

Regional hospitals play a significant role in communities that don’t have access to some of the major hospitals along the Wasatch Front.

“I feel like we’ve learned an awful lot about pandemics in small communities since this spring,” said Christy Calvin, a Moab Regional Hospital spokeswoman. “Since we don’t have a Walgreens here ... if you’re going to get a COVID test or if you’re going to get a COVID vaccine, you’re probably going to do that at the hospital.”

Calvin says they’ve had less than a handful of hospitalizations related to the pandemic.

“Mostly what happens is if we have somebody who’s in acute distress, we transfer those people out because we don’t have an ICU,” said Calvin.

Regardless of case count and other statistics, there are still plenty of frontline workers who face the virus head-on each day in smaller communities throughout the state.

“There’s a lot of positivity with it, there’s a lot of unknowns as everybody’s aware, we’re still learning a lot about COVID, but it’s exciting about the vaccination,” said Gardiner, who acknowledged the hospital still experiencing an extremely busy year. “I’m excited that it’s going to be here soon so not only we can continue to serve our community, but I want to keep our staff safe and that’s the biggest piece to all of this.”

READ: Debunking COVID-19 vaccine myths

A spokesperson with the Utah Department of Health says they are anticipating an additional Pfizer vaccine shipment at the end of this week or early next week. The vaccine will be sent to nine urban hospitals, bringing the statewide total to 14 hospitals with COVID-19 vaccines.

If Moderna receives FDA approval within the next few days, UDOH hopes to place an order this weekend for vaccine shipments to arrive within the next week.