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Dave & Dujanovic: What Biden’s vaccine plan means for Utah

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - JANUARY 11: President-elect Joe Biden receives the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination from Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital on January 11, 2021 in Newark, Delaware. Biden received the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine three weeks after his first dose, received a few days before Christmas. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY —  A state health expert talked about how President Joe Biden’s new plan to increase the coronavirus vaccine supply to states will affect Utah.

Biden announced Tuesday that his administration is boosting the weekly supply of vaccines to states and territories by 16% next week. He said he hopes to have enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall. 

In Utah, vaccines now available for:

  • Healthcare workers,
  • long-term care facility staff and residents,
  • first responders,
  • ages 70 and older,
  • and K-12 teachers and school staff.

More vaccine doses headed to Utah 

Rich Lakin, immunizations director for the Utah Department of Health, joins Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss the new wrinkle in the national rollout of vaccine and what it will mean for Utahns.

He said the state received a 30% increase in doses from Moderna, a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. So instead of the 17,400 Moderna doses anticipated next week, Utah will get 22,900 Moderna doses, Lakin said. Overall, he said the Biden plan will increase doses from 34,950 to 40,450 doses for next week.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine involves two doses given one month apart.

“Where are these extra doses coming from? Are they just sitting in the federal government warehouse? Are there extra doses to be had, and they’re just not distributing them?” Dave asked.

“So, unfortunately, the federal government gives us information on a week-to-week basis,” Lakin said. “I have no idea where this extra 30% came from.”

He said the state in previous weeks has been receiving an increase in vaccines of 2% to 5%.

One of the frustration states have is allocations of vaccine is week to week, he said, but added that Utah is getting its fair share of doses compared to other states.

Lakin said Utah is allocated 1% of the federal government’s supply of available vaccine based on its population. But he clarified that the state actually gets 0.88% of vaccine based on population because of the large number of residents under age 18.

Utah seniors get vaccinated

“This additional 30% coming next week — does that mean we’re going to get through the 70 and older community that wants a vaccine sooner?” Debbie asked.

Lakin said the state may use these extra vaccine doses to immunize seniors over 70 who aren’t in long-term living facilities but are in congregate-living settings but can’t leave their residence and go to a local  health department to receive a vaccine shot.

Alternatively, he said the extra doses could be distributed to local health departments to go into the arms of seniors 70 or older.

If you work or live in a long-term care facility, you can get vaccinated right now. Find out how at coronavirus.utah.gov.

From occupation to age

Lakin said the Utah moved away from prioritizing vaccines for essential workers to a more efficient age-based system because it targets the most vulnerable population: Utahns who are at a higher risk to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19. 

Dave asked after the 70+ seniors are immunized, who comes next and when?

He said vaccinating seniors 70 and older will continue through February. And by mid-February, the process will be re-evaluated based on the number of appointments, the amount of existing vaccine and the amount of anticipated vaccine coming in March.

After that, he said the state will move down the age ladder to 65-to-69 year old Utahns and so on.

Exceptions to age

“Is there any chance people with pre-existing health conditions, people with cancer, do they get moved up the list at all?” Dave asked.

“Yes. So, for example, in March, let’s say we go from a 65-to-69 age-based system. Anybody who’s within the age of 65 and up can now get vaccinated. We are looking at adding 11 health conditions. Those could be chronic heart disease, it could be cancer, it could be Type 2 diabetes.”

He said a younger person with two or more of the listed health conditions could be vaccinated earlier under the age-based system.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.