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With a third COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive in Utah this week, the Utah Department of Health is teaming with three major health companies to open 14 new mass vaccination sites.
The department announced Monday that it is working with Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health and Orem-based Nomi Health to open the sites — which include eight hospitals from Logan to St. George, one health clinic, and five Megaplex Theatres locations.
UDOH spokesman Tom Hudachko said the state is adding these sites because “we are quickly getting to that point … [where] we were receiving enough doses in the state that we would surpass the local health department capacity to be able to administer all of the doses.”
“Getting the vaccine has many benefits, to yourself, to your family and to your community,” said Dr. Kristin Dascomb, medical director for infection prevention and employee health at Intermountain Healthcare, during a teleconference with media Monday to announce the launch. “Each person getting vaccinated gets us one step closer to our goal of herd immunity.”
Intermountain Healthcare plans to add vaccination sites at seven of its hospitals statewide: Logan Regional Hospital in Logan; McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden; The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray; Park City Hospital in Park City; Riverton Hospital in Riverton; St. George Regional Hospital in St. George; and Utah Valley Hospital in Provo. People can register for an appointment with Intermountain at Intermountain.com/covidvaccine.
Orem-based Nomi Health will open locations at five sites in the Megaplex Theaters chain: Thanksgiving Point in Lehi; Geneva in Vineyard; The District in South Jordan; Valley Fair in West Valley City; and Legacy Crossing in Centerville.
“People will enjoy lounging in [the Megaplex] seats during the [15-minute] observation period,” said Dr. June Steely, medical director for Nomi Health.
All locations except Centerville are now open, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Steely said the Centerville location will open Thursday, and sites at other Megaplex locations will follow in the coming weeks.
Nomi Health’s pre-registration website is vaccines.nomihealth.com/utah.
University of Utah Health is starting with two Salt Lake City locations: University of Utah Hospital and the Redwood Health Center. The university will add locations next week in Sugar House, Farmington and South Jordan, a spokeswoman for University of Utah Health said.
The university health system is using its electronic medical records to identify patients who are eligible for the vaccine, then inviting them to make an appointment, said Dr. Richard Orlandi, chief medical officer of ambulatory health at University of Utah Health.
Dr. Jose Rodriguez, associate medical director at the U.’s Redwood Health Center, said Monday was the first day the clinic on Salt Lake City’s west side was giving the vaccine to people under 65 who have underlying medical conditions.
“A vaccine rollout is about getting it to the people who are at the most risk,” said Rodriguez, who also is University of Utah Health’s associate vice president for health equity, diversity and inclusion. “The whole purpose is to get it to the people who need it the most, first.”
To mark the new group of eligible vaccine recipients, the Redwood clinic arranged to have three recent organ transplant recipients — one heart-transplant recipient and two kidney recipients — receive the vaccine in front of the media.
Rodriguez noted that organ transplant patients are at particular risk from COVID-19 — because they take medication that suppresses their immune system, so that their bodies don’t reject their new organs.
Gus Garcia, who received a kidney in 2018, said “we were all waiting for that call” that they could get the COVID-19 vaccine. “We were very happy to know that it’s finally happening for us,” he added.
As a transplant recipient, Garcia said, he was wearing masks in public and practicing constant hand-washing well before the COVID-19 pandemic made such practices common for everyone. During the pandemic, he said, “you had to up that level, and had to be very, very sure of where you were going, what you were doing. And make sure you had all your supplies — extra masks, extra gloves, extra sanitizer.”
In Utah, anyone 65 or older, and anyone 16 and older with certain underlying medical conditions — as well as teachers, health care workers, first responders and residents and staff of long-term care facilities — are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Hudachko said the state is expected to receive a total of 122,000 vaccine doses this week. These include first and second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna versions, which have been available since December, and the new single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was approved by federal officials Saturday and is expected to arrive in Utah on Wednesday.
On the UDOH website, coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution, Utahns can check their eligibility, and find links to make appointments through local health care districts, pharmacies or health care providers, Hudachko said.