Utah's plan for coronavirus vaccine distribution comes into focus

Posted at 9:47 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 23:47:34-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The first doses of a coronavirus vaccine could be in Utah by the end of next week.

On December 10, the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to hold an Emergency Use Authorization hearing on the vaccine developed by Pfizer.

If the vaccine is approved, it will be sent to each state immediately.

“They could be shipping vaccine within a matter of hours and certainly not more than a full day,” said Tom Hudachko, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Health (UDOH).

In October, UDOH revealed essential health care workers would be the first group to receive the vaccine.

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“Health care workers are at a greater risk of being exposed,” Hudachko said. “We’ve been working to identify the hospitals in Utah that are responsible for caring for the highest percentage of COVID-19 patients.”

The state health department’s plan for vaccine distribution aligns with recommendations announced by the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday.

“Utahns should feel comfortable and confident with the plan we put together. We are ready to execute it,” Hudachko said.

Following vaccinations of workers in the medical field, the second phase would include people who live and work at long term care facilities, essential workers in fields other than healthcare and at-risk individuals. They could receive the vaccine in early 2021.

“Timelines are tricky and moving constantly,” Hudachko said. “We imagine February-March is when we will start getting into that phase 2, but it’s possible we get there earlier.”

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UDOH hopes the vaccine will be widely available for the public by summer 2021.

Since Utah accounts for roughly one percent of the country’s population, the state expects to receive one percent of the doses procured by the federal government.

While the vaccine distribution could mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic, Hudachko cautions Utahns against letting down their guard.

“This is not a switch. We are not going to turn this on overnight and things back to normal,” he said. “It will be important that people take the safety precautions that they have been taking all year until there is mass uptake on this vaccine.”