Utah Announces Plans for First Wave of Phase 2 COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

(Salt Lake City, UT) – At the direction of Governor Gary R. Herbert, Utah’s COVID-19 Unified Command group today adopted recommendations from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) for who should initially receive the COVID-19 vaccine during Phase 2 of Utah’s vaccine campaign.

Phase 2 vaccinations are expected to begin as early as mid-February. Utah residents who are 75 and older will receive the vaccine first once Phase 2 vaccinations begin.

“We have seen older adults bear the most severe burden of disease in our state, and across the nation,” said Rich Saunders, UDOH interim executive director. “These individuals are far more likely to be hospitalized, to need intensive care, and to pass away from COVID-19. Ensuring these members of our community receive the vaccine as early as possible will save lives and help reduce the burden on our hospitals.”

The hospitalization rate for adults between the ages of 65-84 is more than three times greater than the next closest age group. For adults older than 85, the rate is nearly five times greater. Mortality rates are also significantly elevated in these age groups. Adults older than 65 account for 77% of all COVID-19 related deaths in Utah.

“As we move into Phase 2 of our vaccination program, it simply makes the most sense to vaccinate those who are at the highest risk for hospitalization and death first,” said Gov. Herbert. “We will continue to refine our plans, and to move forward under the principle that those who stand to suffer the most should be vaccinated first.”

Prioritization of subsequent waves in Phase 2 is still being considered, and will likely include prioritization by additional age groups, residents with certain underlying medical conditions, and certain residents who live in congregate settings.

Prioritization based on an individual’s employment status in certain industries is no longer being considered by the Unified Command group.

“Focusing on age will do more to reduce infections and alleviate hospitalizations than any other category of individuals as we continue to administer vaccinations,” said Gov.-elect Spencer Cox. “I’m very supportive of this change and know it will save lives.”

During the early part of the Phase 2 vaccination campaign, many residents will receive their immunizations at local health department mass vaccination clinics. Later in Phase 2, vaccines will also be available through local pharmacies and primary care providers.

Specific details regarding the implementation of Phase 2 vaccination efforts are still being determined, including how vaccine administration sites will verify the age of those seeking to be immunized.

Phase 1 of Utah’s COVID-19 vaccination program began in early December. Currently, hospital health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, non-hospital health care workers, public health and tribal health care workers are being vaccinated.

Individual hospitals are vaccinating their own staff. National pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens, along with Community Nursing Services, are providing vaccines in long-term care facilities. Non-hospital health care workers should reach out to their local health departments for information on how to get vaccinated.

Later in Phase 1, likely in late January, K-12 teachers and school staff, along with first responders, will begin receiving vaccines. This coordination is happening between school district administrators and local health departments.

More details about the COVID-19 vaccine, and Utah’s distribution plan, can be found at coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine.

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Media Contact:
Tom Hudachko
Utah Department of Health