SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans could start speeding up.
Teachers and K-12 school staffers, who are next in line, could start receiving the vaccine as soon as next week, Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson confirmed to FOX 13.
"We’re moving to teachers which is a great thing, but we also will need to continue with emergency responders, our fire and police officers, etc.," she said Wednesday.
Health care workers and EMTs are being inoculated now. So are people in long-term care facilities. On Tuesday night, the state began offering it to all first responders including firefighters, police officers and emergency dispatchers.
"The timetables have changed. At this point, I don’t anticipate teachers and staff will be moved back," Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13. "The [dosage] estimates we’re getting from the federal government will be solid, so we don’t feel there’s a need to move any of the groups back."
Right now, the state's plans for vaccine distribution to go to teachers by the end of this month. Then, by mid-February, those over age 75 and people with underlying medical conditions will be offered the shots. Former Gov. Gary Herbert said he anticipated the general public would be offered the vaccine by April.
Mayor Wilson said she was told it could now be offered as soon as March.
"We are working with the hope that it will be March, but we know we have a large general population that are not first responders, and we have a large population that are not older than 75," she told FOX 13. "I think our flow into the state as a whole will allow us to take care of those priority groups that have been designated by the federal government and the state right now. Once those are covered, that’s the day we move to the general population."
Governor Spencer Cox's office is expected to make an announcement later Wednesday about potential updates to vaccine timetables. On Saturday, Gov. Cox told FOX 13 he was going to be aggressive about speeding up vaccinations and not wanting any supply sitting on a shelf.
Things are moving so rapidly in Utah right now, there is a discrepancy between the number of vaccines that are reported administered and the number of doses shipped out to hospitals and local health departments. UDOH has asked them to provide a more thorough accounting of the vaccine.
"Everything we’re hearing from all the providers is it’s moving faster than what our data are actually showing," Hudachko said.
UDOH does not suspect there are any missing vaccine or any really sitting on a shelf going unused. Rather, it is a reporting issue. On Tuesday, Utah reported 55,981 vaccines administered. UDOH said it anticipated a steady supply of first and second-doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, throughout January.
Meanwhile, Mayor Wilson told FOX 13 she is preparing to re-purpose county facilities to serve as mass vaccination sites.
"We will have mass vaccination sites when the supply is there. What we are doing right now is preparing," she said.