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New state partners to expand access this week to COVID-19 vaccine

Wyn Choa, a heart transplant recipient, is administered his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by Nathan Hagen, director of pharmacy for University of Utah Health, at U. Health’s Redwood Health Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 1, 2021.
Wyn Choa, a heart transplant recipient, is administered his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by Nathan Hagen, director of pharmacy for University of Utah Health, at U. Health’s Redwood Health Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 1, 2021.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — With Utah expecting a big increase COVID-19 vaccine doses, more options were announced Monday for residents who meet the state eligibility requirements to sign up for shots as just 257 new cases of the virus and five additional deaths were reported.

Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health and Orem-based Nomi Health are now offering more than a dozen vaccination clinics at a variety of locations throughout the state, ranging from hospitals and other medical facilities to movie theaters.

The partners are joining Utah’s 13 local health departments and federally designated pharmacies in providing vaccinations by appointment to residents who meet the criteria set by the state, expanded last week to include Utahns 16 and older with specified medical conditions as well as those 65 and older.

Front-line hospital workers were the first in the state to be vaccinated, starting in mid-December, followed by other health care workers, first responders, emergency services personnel, long-term care facility residents and staff, K-12 teachers and school staffs, and Utahns 70 and older.

The increased involvement by the health care systems and Nomi Heath, recently awarded a state contract to assist with vaccine distribution, comes after a new third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson received final approval from the Food and Drug Administration over the weekend.

“Today marks an exciting milestone for us,” Utah Department of Health spokesman Tom Hudachko said. “We are activating a partnership with several providers throughout the state, Intermountain Healthcare, Nomi Health, U. of U. Health, to add to our vaccinating efforts.”

Megan Lowe, a pharmacy manager for University of Utah Health, left, gives Margaret Maumau, a kidney transplant recipient, her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at U. Health’s Redwood Health Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 1, 2021.
Megan Lowe, a pharmacy manager for University of Utah Health, left, gives Margaret Maumau, a kidney transplant recipient, her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at U. Health’s Redwood Health Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 1, 2021.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

This week, the state expects to receive about 122,000 first and second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and the new single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Hudachko said, nearing the limit that can be administered through local health departments.

By next week, he said, Utah expects to start seeing “significantly” more doses based on the federal government’s allotment by adult population, some 0.84% of the nation’s vaccine supply that is growing due to new purchases by the Biden administration as well as Johnson & Johnson’s approval.

“We knew all along that we would eventually reach a point where we were receiving enough doses in this state that we could surpass the local health department capacity to administer all the doses. We are quickly getting to that point,” Hudachko said, calling it “critically important for us to get these partners on board.”

Utahns can go to the state’s coronavirus website, cornonavirus.utah.gov, to link to all of the options for scheduling an appointment. Each of the new partners is utilizing its own existing sign-up system, separate from what each local health department and pharmacy chain is doing.

There’s “going to be some confusion potentially,” Hudachko said, as Utahns scramble to make appointments, although Gov. Spencer Cox said last week that the state has decided to “embrace the chaos” in order to distribute vaccines as quickly as possible.

Intermountain Healthcare is currently scheduling appointments for Logan Regional Hospital, Riverton, the Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray, St. George Regional Hospital, Park City Hospital, McKay-Dee Hospital and Utah Valley Hospital.

Nomi Health, which was already administering vaccines for the Utah County Health Department at Larry H. Miller Megaplex movie theaters in Lehi, Vineyard, West Valley City and South Jordan, plans to expand to the Megaplex in Centerville on Thursday and farther north next week.

The University of Utah is already contacting patients who meet the requirements for vaccine appointments at the campus hospital as well as the Redwood Health Center in Salt Lake City, and expects to add locations in Farmington, Sugar House and South Jordan.

At the Redwood Health Center Monday afternoon, several patients who qualified for the vaccine because they’d had organ transplants were given shots.

“I’m feeling good. Got a kidney transplant in July 2020. It was a long time coming,” Margaret Maumau told reporters after getting the first of two dose. She said just a few weeks after her transplant, she contracted COVID-19. “It was a tough recovery. Just a little scary.”

When she found out she could be vaccinated, Maumau said she “was a little skeptical at first, but then remembered I didn’t like how I felt when I had COVID, so doing research, as much as I could ... I made the decision to get the COVID vaccine so I didn’t have to go through that again.”

Wyn Choa, who received a new heart just three months ago, said he was “very glad” to get the vaccine.

The state health department said Monday that 4,493 more vaccine doses were administered since Sunday, for a total of 721,029.

With the 257 new COVID-19 cases reported Monday, there have been 371,492 in the state since the start of the pandemic nearly a year ago. The rolling seven-day average for positive tests is 636 per day.

Another 3,133 Utahns have been tested for the virus and 6,517 more tests conducted since Sunday. The rolling seven-day average for percent positivity is 5.1% when all tests are included, the state’s preferred statistic, or 11% when multiple tests by an individual within 90 days are excluded.

There are 214 people hospitalized with the virus in Utah and the state’s death toll has reached 1,940 with the five new deaths reported Monday:

  • An Iron County man, between the ages of 65 and 84, who was hospitalized at time of death.
  • A Kane County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • Two Salt Lake County men, 65-84, both hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, hospitalized.