More than 116,000 Utahns have already received the updated COVID-19 booster shot, according to data provided by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.
The new booster shots, the first to target specific strains of the COVID-19 virus, have been available since early September to people 12 and older — and soon, maybe as young as 5 — who received their initial vaccination series or a previous booster dose at least two months ago.
The number of Utahns who have already rolled up their sleeves for the shots is “probably better than expected,” Rich Lakin, the state health and human services department’s immunization director, said, adding that’s something he’s “very happy to see.”
The state expects to start publicly tracking the number of doses administered of the updated booster shot on its COVID-19 website, coronavirus.utah.gov, in the coming weeks, Lakin said, noting that two-thirds of the doses went to Utahns 50 and older.
As of Monday morning, he said there were 51,345 updated booster doses administered to Utahns 65 and older and 24,791 to those 50 to 64 years old. Among Utahns under 50 years old, 35,820 updated booster shots have been given to those who are 18 to 49; and 4,119 to those who are 12 to 17, Lakin said.
Older Utahns, whose age increases their vulnerability to severe illness from COVID-19, have been the most eager to get vaccinated. Less than 31% of all Utahns have received the original COVID-19 booster shots available to those 5 and older, but just over 69% of Utahns 50 and older have had one and almost 36% have had two so far.
The 116,075 update booster shots already given in Utah represents about 6% of the nearly 2 million Utahns 12 and older who are fully vaccinated, meaning they’ve completed their initial vaccination series — two doses of Pfizer, Moderna or the recently approved Novavax vaccine, or the single dose of Johnson and Johnson.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 7.6 million people have gotten an updated booster shot, about 3.5% of those aged 12 or older who are fully vaccinated. Of course, some people 12 and older may not be immediately eligible for the booster due to the timing of their last shot or a COVID-19 infection.
There’s a two month wait required between the final dose in the initial vaccination series or an original booster shot before someone can get the updated shot, called a bivalent booster because it targets both the original COVID-19 virus as well as the currently circulating versions of the omicron variant, known as BA.4 and BA.5.
Those who’ve recently had COVID-19 are advised to wait until three months after their illness.
Lakin was hesitant at this point to tout what appears to be a higher uptake for the new booster shots in Utah than in the United States as a whole, even though the Beehive State usually lags behind national COVID-19 vaccination rates.
“I guess it’s encouraging news. Maybe people are seeing the importance of getting the vaccine. Maybe it’s been long enough,” he said, given that “a large percentage of people just wanted to see how it was going to go. I think they’re seeing that the vaccine is safe and effective.”