Moderna vaccine doses start to arrive in Utah

Health care workers at smaller hospitals and at long-term care centers, along with center residents, will be getting doses this week.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, Pool) Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020.

Health care workers at some of the state’s smaller hospitals received the first of Utah’s initial 47,800 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which are expected to arrive in the state over the course of this week.

And as more doses arrive, residents and staff of Utah’s long-term care facilities — the sites of 3,849 cases and 404 deaths so far during the pandemic — will start being vaccinated.

The bulk of the Moderna vaccine doses coming to Utah will be distributed to long-term care facilities by Walgreens and CVS, which were contracted by federal officials to administer the shots. In a news statement, CVS announced it would begin vaccinations on Dec. 28 — but it’s not clear which Utah nursing homes will get CVS’ first doses.

“Timing was determined in conjunction with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” wrote a CVS spokesperson. “CVS Health expects to complete its long-term care facility vaccination effort in approximately 12 weeks.”

Utah nursing home operators signed up in advance to receive vaccinations from CVS and Walgreens.

The facilities that aren’t working with the national chains — about 60 in Utah — will receive vaccines through the Utah Department of Health.

Under a $570,000 contract with UDOH, Community Nursing Services (CNS), a nonprofit home health care agency based in West Valley City, will distribute at least 16,000 doses overall, said Tom Hudachko, spokesman for the health department.

About 5,000 of the Moderna doses are going to CNS this week to begin that effort, Hudachko said.

“They have a long history of doing mobile immunization clinics throughout the state,” Hudachko said. “They have the infrastructure in place to conduct this type of work. We decided to continue partnering with them based on that history.”

About $50,000 from the contracted state payment is earmarked to develop the electronic interface that allows CNS to report vaccine data to UDOH.

CNS planned to begin administering the vaccine doses on Dec. 28, said Cory Fowlks, who directs the organization’s immunization program. That will give CNS enough time to work with the facilities to optimize their vaccination schedules around other care duties, like doctor visits and medication timing for patients, in a time when the pandemic has forced nursing homes to keep rigid daily routines in order to limit exposure to the virus.

The state’s Moderna doses also will go to hospitals and public health departments, Hudachko said. That’s on top of the 23,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine being used in the state’s first round of vaccinations, which started last week.

Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful tweeted Monday that its nurses were the first there to receive the Moderna vaccine.

Lakeview received 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine Monday, said Chris Taylor, a spokesman for MountainStar Healthcare. Another MountainStar-operated hospital, Ogden Regional Medical Center, received 900 doses.

Four more of the company’s hospitals will get about 1,500 doses in the next week, he said.

St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, also operated by MountainStar, received 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine last Thursday.

Lance Madigan, spokesman for Intermountain Healthcare, said the company was not expecting to receive the Moderna vaccine before next week. Kathy Wilets, spokeswoman for University of Utah Health, said its hospital would not be receiving the Moderna vaccine this week.

Both Intermountain and University of Utah Hospital received Utah’s first doses of the Pfizer version of the vaccine and gave out their first doses last Tuesday.

Steward Health Care’s five Utah hospitals will not receive the Moderna vaccine, said Jodi DeJong, a company spokeswoman. The Moderna vaccine, she said, “is earmarked for rural hospitals and any hospitals that didn’t have access to the needed freezer” for the Pfizer vaccine, which the Steward hospitals got last week.

Phase 1 of Utah’s distribution plan gives the vaccine to health care workers who are in contact with COVID-19 patients, then staff and residents at long-term care facilities, followed by health care professionals who work outside hospitals.

The next groups to receive the vaccine will be teachers and school staff and those who provide protective services, such as police. All those Phase 1 groups represent about 267,000 Utahns.