covid-19 vaccine file

Karen Stoddard gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot from Carli Naylor at Sunshine Terrace in January.

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People with COVID-19 vaccination appointments with the Bear River Health Department may have the chance to bump them up sooner in order to take up slack in the schedule that opened up due to unexpected extra doses.

The opportunity was reported as a “mistake” earlier Friday, but that’s not entirely accurate, according to BRHD spokesperson Josh Greer. Instead, the health department had more doses ready than actual appointments Friday because over the past weeks it has been vaccinating people early whenever unexpected extra doses arrived locally.

“Every week, we have that dose allotment solidify, and we know, ‘Oh, OK, instead of getting this many doses, we’re actually getting a few extra next week,’” Greer said. “But we only know that on a week-to-week basis.”

As soon as the BRHD has learned it would be receiving extra doses, it would open up slots in vaccine clinics that may have been previously full, Greer said.

“But what we’ve found is that people would sign up for those … new appointment slots that were already scheduled for two weeks down the line,” Greer said. “And then instead of cancelling their (old) appointment, they just wouldn’t show up to their appointment.”

BRHD realized that tendency was causing a chain reaction where more and more slots would go empty.

“What we find is on paper, we have full clinics, but then we have a lot of people not showing up,” Greer said.

“And then after a couple of weeks of this, we’re looking at a couple hundred people for each clinic that aren’t showing up.”

So now BRHD is tightening the slack that’s developed in the schedule and trying to make sure that none of the temperature-sensitive vaccine goes to waste locally.

“So what we’ve decided to do is say, ‘Hey, those of you that have registered the next couple of weeks, if you can come in today, let’s have you do that,’ and then we can evaluate our appointment slots for the next couple of weeks and see what needs to be opened there,” Greer said. “But all of that vaccine (for appointments down the road) is still in the freezer now and (it’s) not as critical that get out in the next day or so.”

Much of the confusion arose from a tweet Utah Gov. Spencer Cox posted Friday morning, which states that staff mistakenly pulled extra doses of the temperature-sensitive vaccine from the freezer and the doses need to be used soon. In reality, nurses pulled the number of doses they would need based on scheduled appointments, but some of those appointments were empty due to early vaccinations.

Greer said despite the confusion, he’d like people to know that the vaccine’s being used.

“We’re using it. It will not go to waste. It’s in people’s arms, and that’s the important thing,” Greer said. “We’re getting more and more people vaccinated.”

Currently people 70 and older, K-12 educators and staff, health care providers and first responders are eligible for the vaccine. People 65 and older as well as people with certain medical conditions are set to become eligible on March 1 as the next step of the vaccine rollout.

Greer said that BRHD would probably even be ready to move to that next stage early, if the governor gave the green light.

“We’ve offered the vaccine to our current priority group, they’ve taken advantage of it, but I think we’re running out of takers at this point,” Greer said. “So we’re definitely ready.”

The department keeps a list of people who can come to the clinics on short notice in case nurses have started a vial of the vaccine but there are a few doses left. People in the current target population of the vaccine rollout are prioritized, but if they can’t get someone from the current group into the clinic but someone who’s 65 or older or immunocompromised can come, “we would do that rather than let that go to waste,” Greer said.

To reschedule a vaccination with BRHD, visit the following link: https://brhd.jotform.com/210415681991963.

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