The Bear River Health Department is doing away with its appointment system for administering COVID-19 vaccines, and has started giving shots to anyone who simply shows up.
Beginning Monday, May 3, the health department’s clinics in Brigham City and Logan transitioned to offering vaccines on a walk-in or curbside basis instead of requiring appointments. The Logan location will also hold limited evening hours beginning May 10.
The Brigham City (817 W. 950 South) location will offer curbside and walk-in vaccines from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The Logan location (655 E. 1300 North) will operate during the same days and hours, but with curbside service only. Beginning May 10, the Logan location will also offer vaccines from 7 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
The change comes as demand for the vaccine has tapered off over the past couple of weeks both locally and nationwide, prompting health officials to look for more effective ways to get shots into as many people as possible.
With a majority of residents aged 65 or older and other at-risk groups having received the vaccine, the focus is now turning to individuals who may be harder to reach for a variety of reasons.
BRHD spokesman Joshua Greer said that of the 2,400 slots the department made available last week for people to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, less than 700 were filled.
“There’s definitely been a decline in demand,” Greer said. “The group of people that were really anxious to get out and get it, we’ve reached them and now people are just trickling in, so we’re trying to look for how to reach some that we haven’t reached before.”
Local hospitals, pharmacies and other medical facilities offering the vaccine have seen similar declines, he said.
BRHD figures show that as of last Friday, 31.7% of adults in the Bear River Health District encompassing Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties had been fully immunized, meaning they had received their final vaccine dose at least two weeks earlier. Progress has been slightly slower in Box Elder County, where 29% of adults were reported immunized as of Friday.
The walk-in clinics will not be offered at BRHD’s Tremonton office, which has been holding some clinics by appointment in recent weeks. Greer said demand at the Tremonton location has dropped off significantly, so it made sense to consolidate the department’s efforts at the Brigham City location.
However, he said BRHD is getting ready to reopen and resume regular operations at the Tremonton office (440 W. 600 North), which has been closed since the early days of the pandemic.
“By mid-May we should have that reopened, and at that point we can reevaluate and see if we should offer vaccines there,” he said.
Greer said one possible barrier to more widespread distribution of the vaccine has been technology — specifically the requirement that appointments be booked online through the health department website.
“Now we’re saying just walk in during these hours and we can help them fill out the paperwork,” he said.
Clinics up to this point have largely been held during regular daytime hours, so offering the evening window should help alleviate a potential conflict with peoples’ work schedules, he added.
All BRHD clinics going forward will be offering the Pfizer vaccine, which has been approved for anyone who is at least 16 years old. Anyone who has already made an appointment with the health department or Logan Fire Department is encouraged to keep that appointment.
The department is asking those who have it to bring proof of insurance or identification such as a driver license, but Greer said no one will be denied a vaccine or be charged for it.
“If they don’t have either, we won’t turn them away,” he said. “Anyone who is 16 or older and shows up, we’re going to give them the vaccine.”
He said vaccine supplies are plentiful, especially as demand has dropped off, and staffers have been working diligently to ensure doses aren’t going to waste.
“Our nurses do an amazing job controlling the inventory,” he said.
As more people get vaccinated and life slowly returns to some semblance of normalcy, he said the department’s goal is to continue offering the COVID-19 shot just like any of the other vaccines it provides.
“Normal operating hours — that’s where I see us moving,” he said.