As COVID-19 vaccinations continue across Utah, the state’s tally lags behind

Distribution is moving faster ‘than what is showing up in the data,’ health department spokesman says.

Nearly a thousand health care employees who work outside hospitals signed up to be vaccinated against COVID-19 Tuesday in the concourse of the Dee Events Center, where Weber State University’s basketball teams play.

But it may be as late as Friday before all of those doses show up in the vaccination total the state reports daily, said Nicholas Rupp, spokesman for the Salt Lake County Health Department, which also is giving doses to emergency medical service workers and clinical workers this week.

The Utah Department of Health has been trying to get “a manual accounting of what’s happening on the ground” with the agencies, nonprofits and others who are doing the work of administering vaccine around the state, said spokesman Tom Hudachko.

“The delay in reporting is probably more significant than we realized,” he said, adding that officials at UDOH believe “that the vaccine is being administered more quickly than what is showing up in the data.”

As of Tuesday, Utah was reporting it had been shipped 150,125 doses. That number, Hudachko said, means “they’ve left the Pfizer or Moderna warehouses and are on their way here, or have arrived here.”

The journey that a box of vaccine vials takes — from the pharmaceutical companies’ warehouses to a hospital or pharmacy and into somebody’s bicep, and when that dose reported to UDOH — can take “probably closer to a week,” Hudachko said.

As of Tuesday, Utah reported 55,981 doses had been administered — 37% of its shipped doses, and slightly over half of the 102,025 doses it recorded as shipped a week ago.

The state health department never receives or handles vaccine, Hudachko said. Pharmaceutical companies send vaccines directly to the hospitals, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, regional health departments and others that are administering it, he explained.

“They’re being shipped, just like you’re ordering something off of Amazon,” he said. “We basically know when they’ve been ordered, we know when they’ve been shipped, and we know when they have been administered,” after those providers report completed vaccinations to the state, Hudachko said.

The two COVID-19 vaccines are given in two doses, weeks apart — three weeks for the Pfizer Inc./BioNTech version that was first administered in Utah on Dec. 15, and four weeks for the Moderna Inc. formula, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a week after the government signed off on the Pfizer version.

Utah facilities that have vaccine are not holding back doses to give out as the second dose to people who already received their first dose, he said. “The second-round doses are being shipped as second-round doses,” Hudachko said.

Some health care workers are expected to receive their second dose of the Pfizer version this week.

The doses distributed in Ogden Tuesday are part of a second push to vaccinate health care workers — the first doses went front-line hospital workers, and now counties are including “clinical” health care workers — the ones who don’t work in hospitals, or have close contact with COVID-19 patients.

According to a Weber-Morgan Health Department spokeswoman, 966 such workers signed up for the pop-up clinic held Tuesday. The department, which covers Weber and Morgan counties, distributed another 315 doses of the vaccine to workers last week, she said — and the department aims to give out a total of 2,900 doses at the clinic by week’s end.