hinges on supply
Eligibility to be expanded soon
to larger population
By Robert Stevens
The administration of COVID-19 vaccines in the Central Utah Public Health District (CUPHD) is proceeding as planned and the vaccine qualification requirements will soon be loosened to include more people, CUPHD officials say.
Currently, those who are eligible for the vaccine are healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents, first responders, K-12 school staff and Utahns aged 70 and older. Beginning Monday, March 1, the eligibility requirements are being expanded to include Utahns between the ages of 65-69 and anyone 18 or older with certain medical conditions (see sidebar for a list of conditions).
“We have the ability to vaccinate far more people than we actually have vaccine supply for,” says Nate Selin, CUPHD director. “We have to work with the supply we have, but what we get is being administered in an equitable manner as it becomes available.”
As of Tuesday, Feb. 2, the CUPD had received and allocated 1331 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to be administered in Sanpete County and all of them have been used. Of those Sanpete doses, 1276 went to people getting their first shot of the two-dose vaccine, while 55 of the doses went to people getting their second shot.
Selin told the Messenger that the CUPHD is being supplied with vaccine on a weekly basis and the projection of weekly vaccine supply will vary slightly week-to-week, but should be 1,000 doses or more each week for use in the six-county area, which includes Sanpete, Sevier, Millard, Juab, Piute and Wayne counties.
As doses are received, people who are within the vaccine qualification requirements sign up to get vaccinated on the Centralutahpublichealth.org website. A number is issued to the applicant and the CUPHD calls them to schedule an appointment to get a vaccine dose. The amount of time it takes to get the dose hinges entirely on the vaccine supply, says Selin, but people should be aware it could be several weeks from the time you sign up for the dose.
The Utah Department of Health estimates the state will receive approximately 1.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine during the month of March. Selin says the vaccine doses are split up proportionally based on the population of each county in order to make the distribution as fair as possible, with no proportional bias towards areas with larger populations, such as the Wasatch Front.
The sequence in which COVID vaccination applicants have received their doses have also been fair and orderly, Selin says. After a qualified applicant signs up to receive their vaccine and are issued a number to save their place in the queue, the vaccine doses are administered via appointment in the order they signed up.
“There is no one jumping up in the queue at all,” Selin says. “If it seems like that, it is only a coincidence. The process is very equitable.”
There are a handful of factors that determine how long a vaccination applicant has to wait to receive their doses, Selin says. One of those factors is the ratio of people over the age of 70 in an area. While the distribution of vaccines to counties across the state directly connected to the population of the county, some counties have a higher or lower ratio of people over the age of 70. With age 70 the current cutoff for normal qualification for the vaccine, in an area with a higher ratio of people 70 and older, the finite weekly supply of doses can be depleted faster than areas with a lower ratio of older residents, sometimes creating a longer delay before the dose can be administered.
On Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox announced the expanded eligibility requirements, saying “We are trying to be more viral than the virus and its happening.”
Selin asks residents of the six-county area to be patient and try to understand that the process is happening on a timeline that is influenced heavily by the vaccine supply.
- Solid organ transplant recipients
- Cancer: non-hematologic diagnosed within last 1 year (excluding basal and squamous cell cancer diagnoses); hematologic diagnosed within last 5 years
- Receiving immunosuppression therapy
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood, bone marrow, or organ transplant; HIV; use of corticosteroids long-term; or use of other immune weakening medicines long-term
- Severe kidney disease: on dialysis or with stage 4 or 5 chronic kidney disease
- Uncontrolled diabetes: patients with an A1c of 9.0 or higher
- People with a BMI of 40 or higher (also known as Class III or severe obesity)
- Chronic liver disease: chronic hepatitis B or C, chronic infective hepatitis (hepatitis B or C), alcohol-related liver disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, or hemochromatosis
- Chronic heart disease (not hypertension): chronic heart failure, ischaemic heart disease and severe valve or congenital heart disease
- Severe chronic respiratory disease (other than asthma): including severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fibrosing lung disease, bronchiectasis or cystic fibrosis
- Neurologic conditions that impair respiratory function, including: motor neuron disease, myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, quadriplegia or hemiplegia, progressive cerebellar disease, epilepsy, Down syndrome
- Stroke and dementia (Alzheimer’s, vascular, frontotemporal)
- Asplenia including splenectomy or a spleen dysfunction, including sickle cell disease