Planning error blamed for fewer vaccines heading to Utah, but hospital officials say they’ll adjust
Another 2,408 Utah COVID-19 cases, 8 deaths reported Saturday
SALT LAKE CITY — After Utah became one of several states to find out it will receive fewer vaccine doses next week than expected, the Army general in charge of the distributions said Saturday to credit him for the misunderstanding.
“There is no problem with the process, there is no problem with the Pfizer vaccine, there is no problem with the Moderna vaccine. It was a planning error, and I am responsible,” Gen. Gus Perna, chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, said during a news conference Saturday.
He said he needed to lower the allocations to states for next week because fewer vaccines were releasable than he previously thought. After vaccine doses are produced, they need to go through an approval process.
“We’re learning from it. We’re trying to get better because at the end of the day, it is about facilitating the most available vaccine doses that are releasable out to the American people,” Perna said.
He promised “fair and equitable distribution” to everyone in the country, and said the country is on track to distribute 20 million vaccine doses by the end of December.
On Friday evening, the Food and Drug Administration gave Moderna’s vaccine emergency use authorization, meaning two different vaccines are now available and will be shipped to states next week. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at a colder temperature. Some hospitals in Utah were waiting for the Moderna vaccine to become available before inoculating their health care workers.
As of Saturday, 23,400 vaccines have been shipped to Utah, health officials said. State data shows at least 3,648 vaccines have been administered — but more health care workers have actually been vaccinated as the state’s data is lagging, health officials said.
On Friday, Utah health officials tweeted that Utah will receive 16,757 doses next week instead of the 23,400 doses they had planned for.
Hospital leaders at Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health on Friday reported they have given the first vaccine doses to about 5,000 workers collectively.
But despite fewer doses heading to Utah, health officials say they have been able to get more doses than expected from the shipments they’ve received.
“Some more good news today on the vaccine front. Our hospitals have confirmed that they are able to get 6 doses from the 5-dose vials that have been shipped ... a 20% increase right out of the gate!” Gov.-elect Spencer Cox tweeted on Friday.
Reports late this week speculated that Pfizer — which saw its vaccine become the first approved late last week and has sent off the first batches — was facing issues in production and distribution.
The company disputed those reports.
“Pfizer is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed. This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. government to the locations specified by them,” Pfizer officials said in a statement.
“We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses,” according to the company.
Intermountain Healthcare said in a statement it was is grateful for the vaccines it has received so far and “will adjust as we have the entire pandemic and administer vaccine as we get it.”
University of Utah Health said in a statement, “We’re busy administering what we currently have and will adjust our rollout plan as needed. While we feel like we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel we continue to ask everyone to continue to mask up and social distance.”
Chris Taylor with MountainStar Healthcare, which began administering the vaccine to health care workers at Saint Mark’s Hospital on Friday, said, “The expectation has always been that distribution timing would be somewhat fluid, and we’re certainly understanding of that. Bottom line: We’ll take what we can get just as soon as we can get it.”
Utah health officials reported another 2,408 COVID-19 cases and eight deaths on Saturday.
The new cases were confirmed out of 10,101 people tested, with a 24% positive rate, according to the Utah Department of Health. The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 2,454 per day, and the average for percent of positive laboratory tests is 22.1%.
On Saturday, 559 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, which is 20 more than were hospitalized the previous day.
Early Saturday, an inmate at the Davis County Jail showed symptoms of the coronavirus, prompting the facility to perform rapid antigen tests on everyone in the men’s housing unit.
The facility found 29 inmates and one employee who are positive for COVID-19, officials said. Those who tested positive were moved to separate housing units and those who were exposed are in quarantine.
The eight deaths reported Saturday bring the state’s toll to 1,148. They included five Salt Lake County residents — one man and two women between 65 and 84, and one man and one woman between 45 and 64. All five were hospitalized when they died.
A Davis County woman between 45 and 64 died while hospitalized; and a Utah County man older than 85 and a Box Elder man between 65 and 85 both died without hospitalization.
To date, 248,970 cases have been confirmed in Utah out of 1,633,896 people tested. Hospitalizations since the outbreak began now total 9,968.
Contributing: Matt Rascon