UDOH says thousands of COVID-19 vaccines remain unused

Jan 21, 2021, 8:44 AM | Updated: 8:51 am
2021 General Session legislative staffers get COVID vaccine...
(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Are there doses of the COVID-19 vaccines in Utah that are unused and just sitting around? Health officials gave their latest assessment on the vaccine rollout to the legislature, and they acknowledge thousands of doses weren’t used when they were supposed to be. 

Currently, there are 56,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines in the state.  Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order that all doses should be given to patients within seven days of receiving it.  However, out of all of the doses in Utah now, 43,000 vaccines are still unused and not given out when they were supposed to be.

“About 30,000 are within the federal pharmacy partnership with CVS and Walgreens,” Utah Department of Health Deputy Director Heather Borski told lawmakers Wednesday.

Borski says it appears the pharmacies got too many doses to vaccinate their workers and people in long-term care facilities.  However, the department is trying to move that extra medication to hospitals or other agencies that could use them.

“To adjust this, we have canceled their shipment for this week and are diverting that allocation to other partners,” Borski said.

Health officials say these unused doses are still completely viable.  They have a shelf life of six months as long as they’re adequately frozen, although they have to be administered within hours after they’re thawed.

Along with the unused first doses, UDOH Executive Director Rich Saunders says there are roughly 4,000 unused second doses that were supposed to be distributed by now.  He says there is a lot of debate over what to do with those.  Should the state hold on to those second doses just in case the federal government doesn’t give Utah the supply it promises?  Or, should they be used as first doses to give more people at least some level of protection against the virus?  Saunders says people have strong opinions on both sides.

“There are many who believe that we should continue to store them in the freezer because we have to protect the second dose.  There are many that believe we should [administer] that excess and just trust that we’ll get future doses,” Saunders said.

Some lawmakers say their local health boards don’t have the resources they need to deliver each vaccine in the allotted time.  However, Saunders says UDOH is willing to provide any kind of assistance health boards need.

“If you need manpower, we’ll get you manpower.  If you need technology, we’ll get you technology,” he said.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


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UDOH says thousands of COVID-19 vaccines remain unused