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People are 52% immune after first COVID-19 vaccine dose, doctor says

27 new deaths reported Wednesday

University of Utah Healthcare team members conduct COVID-19 testing at the U. Wellness Bus test site in the Cattle Barn at the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.
University of Utah Healthcare team members conduct COVID-19 testing at the U. Wellness Bus test site in the Cattle Barn at the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah’s vaccination program ramps up, officials warn that continuing to follow current public health guidelines to avoid transmission of the novel coronavirus is imperative.

“We are months out from having a good control over the spread of infection,” Intermountain Healthcare’s Community Health and Prevention Medical Director Dr. Tamara Sheffield said on Wednesday.

She said a person is about 52% immune after one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and that jumps to 95% after fulfilling the two-dose regimen set by manufacturers of the vaccines available now.

The two available COVID-19 vaccines are constructed using mRNA, which kicks off a process in the body that creates a favorable immune response.

“Rather than get infected or have symptoms of disease ... this allows us to fight off an infection very quickly,” Sheffield said, adding that mRNA then dissolves over time.

The state has administered 124,884 vaccines so far, including a large portion for health care workers who have received both doses. Sheffield said at least 4,000 at Intermountain have been fully vaccinated. She is hopeful the vaccine will continue its current popularity.

Another 14,354 doses were given Tuesday, the Utah Department of Health reports. The agency is working now to roll out vaccines to a larger portion of the population, including public school personnel and people age 70 and older, though each health district is handling it differently.

“Unless we get a large enough portion of the population to be vaccinated or immune to the disease, we will not control the spread of the disease,” Sheffield said. “The vaccines work better in an environment where there is less exposure, as well, so we are trying to reduce the risk in both ways.

“If we don’t get enough people under that threshold, we don’t control the spread.”

And, people can become infected during and after being immunized, she said.

The health department reported another 5,188 new cases of COVID-19 in the state on Wednesday — including 2,289 that were identified as early as June of last year, but were not included in the overall count due to incomplete information for the person diagnosed. Until now, the health department has not counted cases without a verifiable Utah address.

The total number of known COVID-19 cases in Utah is now 314,817, with a seven-day average test positivity rate of 27.8%.

Utah has the seventh-highest number of average daily cases per 100,000 people in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This month has been predicted by many to be the most deadly yet in this pandemic.

On Tuesday, the country saw its highest-ever single-day death record, with 4,327 lives lost to COVID-19 and a new case count of 215,805 nationwide. It has been eight consecutive days of over 200,000 case counts, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.

The United States has seen nearly 23 million confirmed cases of disease and 380,821 deaths since the first was recorded on Jan. 21, 2020, the data indicates.

Utah has tested 1.85 million people since the beginning of the pandemic, including more than 12,200 since Tuesday.

There are 566 people being treated with COVID-19 at hospitals throughout Utah and the state health department noted another 27 deaths on Wednesday, including nine that occurred before Dec. 23 but took additional time for the medical examiner to confirm.

The deaths include 15 men and 12 women of varying ages and location of residency throughout Utah. In all, there have been 1,449 deaths caused by COVID-19 in the state thus far.

The COVID-19 deaths reported Wednesday include:

  • Two Washington County men and one woman between the ages of 65 and 84 who were hospitalized at the time of their deaths.
  • A Washington County man between 45 and 64 who was hospitalized.
  • Two Washington County men older than 85 who were hospitalized.
  • Two Washington County women, one 45-64 and the other 25-44, who were both hospitalized.
  • A Washington County woman older than 85 who was not hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Weber County woman between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Utah County woman older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • Two Utah County men between 65 and 84, one who was a long-term care facility resident and one who was hospitalized
  • A Utah County man older than 85 who was hospitalized.
  • Two Utah County men between 45 and 64 who were hospitalized.
  • A Uintah County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Uintah County woman between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • An Iron County woman between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man older than 85 who was hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • A Salt Lake County man between 65 and 84 who was a long-term care facility resident.
  • Two Tooele County women between 65 and 84, one who was hospitalized and one who was not.
  • A Carbon County man between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized.
  • A Juab County woman older than 85 who was a long-term care facility resident.

New COVID-19 cases reported on Wednesday by health district:

  • Utah County, 1,878
  • Salt Lake County, 791
  • Bear River, 423
  • Weber-Morgan, 392
  • Southwest Utah, 315
  • Davis County, 293
  • Tooele County, 137
  • Summit County, 96
  • Central Utah, 74
  • Southeast Utah, 59
  • Wasatch County, 55
  • San Juan County, 38
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 38