SALT LAKE CITY — While there has been a slight delay in the process of getting vaccines to the public, caregivers in Utah want people to know that the shots are key to protecting the population from COVID-19.

“My job doesn’t change whether I’m vaccinated or (the patient) is vaccinated ... but my state of mind is different. I’ve had a more positive perspective,” said Sophie Woodbury, a nurse at Intermountain Healthcare’s LDS Hospital who was one of the first caregivers to receive the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on Dec. 15. She received her second dose on Tuesday.

“During those hard days that are so frequent, I do not feel quite so doomed,” Woodbury said. “There’s an end to this pandemic and because I’m vaccinated, I’m part of this fight for the pandemic to end.”

“I feel more protected and I feel more encouraged for the future,” she said.

The Utah Department of Health, which is tracking the vaccine from facilitating orders to distribution and beyond, reports that 60,462 people in Utah have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition to the number of vaccines administered, the health department reported 3,769 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total of known infections to 292,720 since mid-March.

More than 1.77 million Utahns have been tested for the virus resulting from the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, including an additional 12,457 people tested since Tuesday, the health department reported.

There are 525 people hospitalized with the disease throughout Utah and another 18 people have died due to COVID-19. All but two of the people reported to have died in Wednesday’s report had been hospitalized.

The numbers that seemed to be stabilizing just after the holidays, have picked up again, increasing daily this week, with 41 new hospitalizations in Utah since Monday.

Dr. Tamara Sheffield said it is unknown how long immunity will last with the latest COVID-19 vaccines, but that “most vaccines work longer” than the six months that is anticipated by manufacturers of the Moderna vaccine. Some vaccines, she said, provide protection from disease for years, while others last a lifetime.

“If we need to provide boosters to protect people from vaccine-preventable disease, we will give boosters,” Sheffield said.

University of Utah Health reported on Wednesday that it has immunized 55% of its health care team, and Sheffield said that at least 25,000 of Intermountain’s caregivers have received at least one dose.

Both health systems started administering second doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week, as it is required to be given 21 days after the first. Moderna’s vaccine requires 28 days between the two doses and arrived later in the state, with the first doses given around Dec. 22 in Utah.

Sheffield said very few side effects have been reported following the COVID-19 immunizations. Most people, she said, experience pain in their arm where the shot was given.

Woodbury didn’t have any adverse reaction to her first dose, but the second seemed to give her a little bit of a headache, which, she said, was remedied quickly with ibuprofen.

Monte Roberts, a nurse at LDS Hospital’s intensive care unit, said both doses made him feel a little tired.

The biggest impact the vaccine has had, he said, “is we have a lot of hope.”

“We look at the numbers and even now, we’re still seeing numbers go up with people getting infected with COVID,” Roberts said. “It is our hope that in the near future, the lines will cross and we’ll see a decrease in the number of people admitted to the hospital as more and more people are vaccinated.”

“I would really like, at some point, to take this mask off,” he said. “And to have people see the smile I have behind this mask because of all the hard work done by our scientists and physicians to get us through this — that we can actually beat this and move forward together.”

The speed at which the state is vaccinating people is picking up, and things are still moving along as planned, though delayed a few weeks, Sheffield said.

Educators are expected to be in the next phase, after health care workers across the state, and then people over age 75. After that, the determination will be made to include other age groups and/or risk factors.

“We don’t expect long delays as long as the expected shipments keep happening,” Sheffield said, adding that health care systems are working quickly to prove to the federal government, which is allocating shipments to the states, that demand exists and can be kept up with.

All of this is dependent on the logistics and how well we can get vaccines to our locations and the people who need it to our locations,” Sheffield said, adding that they’ve learned a lot in the first weeks. She said it is important to get it moving quickly.

By the end of the week, Sheffield said Intermountain will have distributed all doses that came in the first allocation and will be moving to help the health department to reach other health care workers and others in the community.

“We need to get people vaccinated who are at high risk before they get infected,” she said.

Utah’s seven-day average for percent of positive laboratory tests is now at 32.66%, which is the highest it has been throughout the pandemic. The state is experiencing an average of 2,963 new cases per day, according to the health department.

Both nurses encouraged the public to “do your own research” on the vaccines and learn from the confidence that most health care professionals have in the process, but also to weigh personal risk against the potential effects of the disease.

“We want to help (the community) understand our confidence in the idea of vaccines,” Sheffield said. “As we’ve seen pandemics of other deadly diseases over the years, vaccines are a key mitigating strategy.”

The COVID-19 deaths reported Thursday include:

  • Three Salt Lake County men between the ages of 45 and 64 who were each hospitalized when they died.
  • A Salt Lake County man and a Salt Lake County woman, both between 65 and 84 who were hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man and a Salt Lake County woman, both older than 85 who were hospitalized.
  • A Summit County man between the ages of 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Millard County man between 65 and 84 who was not hospitalized.
  • A Duchesne County man between 45 and 64 who was not hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man between 45 and 64 who was hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Weber County woman between 25 and 44 who was hospitalized.
  • A Washington County woman between 65 and 84 who was hospitalized.
  • A Washington County man between 45 and 64 who was hospitalized.

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

  • Salt Lake County, 1,163
  • Utah County, 716
  • Davis County, 437
  • Weber-Morgan, 377
  • Southwest Utah, 325
  • Bear River, 262
  • Central Utah, 227
  • Tooele County, 76
  • Summit County, 66
  • TriCounty (Uinta Basin), 58
  • Wasatch County, 26
  • Southeast Utah, 19
  • San Juan County, 17