SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah could receive its first round of a coronavirus vaccine as early as mid-December but wider distribution likely won’t be available until July, health officials said Wednesday.
Rich Lakin, immunization program manager for the state health department, said that even though the vaccine options look promising, wearing masks and social distancing will continue to be crucial through the dissemination process.
“Even though the vaccine is coming out in possibly December... it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden the disease burden is going to be eliminated,” Lakin told reporters. “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
The first doses in Utah will go to staff in emergency departments, urgent care facilities, COVID-19 units and long-term care facilities, as well as health care workers with pre-existing health conditions, Lakin said. It is still unclear how many doses will be sent in the initial phase.
Five hospitals that experienced the highest COVID-19 response will be the first to receive the vaccine: The University of Utah Hospital, Intermountain Medical Center, LDS Hospital, Dixie Regional Medical Center and Utah Valley Regional Hospital.
State health officials hope to have an additional 30 hospitals ready to receive the vaccine about two weeks after the initial five hospitals.
Additional doses will then likely be available in February and March for long-term care facility residents and staff that were not vaccinated initially. Essential workers who have a high risk of contracting COVID-19 in their occupation will also be prioritized.