SALT LAKE CITY — Much of Utah’s weekly COVID-19 vaccine allotment has been delayed by winter storms across the nation and may not make it here until next week, a Utah Department of Health official said.
“It’s happening to every state. The weather issues are just creating problems within the supply chain and the delivery of the vaccines,” said Rich Lakin, the state health department’s immunization director. “If we don’t get any vaccine delivered this week, then we don’t have doses to give.”
But he said four of the state’s 13 local health departments — Salt Lake County, Davis County, Tooele County and Bear River — that requested delivery of their weekly allotment on Monday despite the Presidents Day holiday did get their doses.
Lakin said the hope is that the weather will clear so the remaining shipments will arrive Thursday, although there’s a chance they’ll have to wait until next week.
“We’re just dependent on Mother Nature right now,” he said.
White House COVID-1 coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters there are vaccination sites around the country that have understandably closed due to the weather, but will need to be ready to make up for time lost “in some states for people to get needles in arms” once the storms have passed.
Zients said the weather is “having an impact on distribution and deliveries from the delivery companies and the distribution companies. People are working as hard as they can, given the importance of getting the vaccines to the states and to providers. But there is an impact on deliveries.”
The Biden administration, he said, is “encouraging governors and other partners to extend hours once they’re able to reopen. You know, many vaccination sites do operate 24/7, you know, through the weekends, through the evenings.”
Heavy snow resulted in the Salt Lake County Health Department moving vaccine appointments scheduled for Wednesday to Sunday, the one day during the week when the sites for shots at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy and the overflow parking lot of the Maverik Center in West Valley City are usually closed.
“Sunday has always been an empty day, with no clinics, specifically for this reason,” Salt Lake County Health Department spokesman Nicholas Rupp said. “It was designed to be an emergency use day if we needed to have a weather cancellation or some other emergency that causes a cancellation.”
The Sunday appointments will be at the same time and same location as Wednesday’s, but anyone who can’t make it is asked to call 385-468-7468 to cancel and reschedule. The appointment scheduling line is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Rupp said Salt Lake City had enough vaccine on hand to loan some doses to the Associated Food stores that started offering appointments this week, along with Smith’s and Walmart locations in the state. He said the grocery store chain is expected to replenish the county’s supply later this week.
“We are in good shape,” Rupp said. “We are keeping an eye on the weather but right now, not concerned.”
Lakin said local health departments are working together to share vaccine doses to limit the number of vaccine appointments that have to be canceled due to a lack of supply. But he said Utahns should remember that even if their appointment gets canceled, “you still can get your vaccine. You just may have to get it at a later time.”
He said the state’s vaccine allocation won’t change because of the weather delay, and that local health departments would be able to handle administering two weeks’ worth of doses if this week’s shipment doesn’t come until after the weekend.
“We’re doing a good job,” Lakin said, with Utah ranking fourth in the nation “in getting vaccines into arms.”
The state health department reported Wednesday that 551,068 vaccine doses have been administered in Utah, an increase of 18,083 since Tuesday.
Utahns eligible for a vaccine are health care workers, first responders, long-term care facility residents and staffs, K-12 teachers and school staffs, and all Utahns 70 and older. The list is set to be expanded March 1 to include Utahns 65 and older as well as all residents with specified medical conditions, but that could happen sooner.
Anyone with an appointment who doesn’t want to venture out into the wintry weather can call 801-851-4357 and reschedule, she said.