UTAH COUNTY — Many people are anxiously awaiting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The hope is that that could happen as soon as late November, according to Rich Lakin, the Utah Department of Health's immunization program manager.
Lakin said it will initially arrive in limited supply and be given to specific groups.
“There is a very good assumption that comes from CDC ... that healthcare workers and staff and residents at long-term care facilities could be some of the first to receive that limited vaccine,” Lakin said.
The available supply will help determine how many people can be vaccinated, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lakin said. The roll out of the vaccine will likely take place over many months and it could be until late next summer or longer before the general public — people not in a high-risk category — would be eligible to be vaccinated. The public needs to be patient, he said.
“Let’s take care of those in the beginning that we feel is a priority based on CDC guidelines,” Lakin said.
Utah has formed a group of doctors, experts and leaders who will help make recommendations with the help of CDC guidelines on who will be eligible to be vaccinated with each new shipment of vaccines.
“We will take that recommendation, and my understanding is that it will be approved by Unified Command, and that will be a quick process, and then we can send that vaccine out,” Lakin said.
Local health departments are preparing for a mass, or large-scale, COVID-19 vaccination. The Utah County Health Department is asking for volunteers to prepare.
“This is going to be a unique situation and we know that we are going to need help,” department spokeswoman Aislynn Tolman-Hill said.
With lessons learned from the H1N1 vaccine in mind, Tolman-Hill said the health department is looking at ways to vaccinate people with ease including the possibility of drive-up vaccinations and some sort of reservation system.
“[During H1N1 vaccinations], you would show up to get a vaccine and there were lines around health departments and around other buildings,” she said.
Long lines are something the health department wants to avoid.
The Utah County Health Department will be using flu clinics this year to practice for the large-scale COVID-19 vaccinations. People will not be required to be vaccinated, despite some online rumors circulating.
“We anticipate a large amount of people will want to get the vaccine. If you don’t want to, that’s up to you,” Tolman-Hill said.
The Utah County Health Department is looking for both medical personnel and non-medically trained people to help staff the community vaccination clinics.
For more information on volunteering with the Utah County Health Department, click here.
For the latest COVID-19 news and updates in Utah, click here.
For the latest from the CDC on COVID-19, click here.